How can Employers Better Support Parents?

Balancing work and family

In 2015 Employers For Childcare launched the ‘Striking the Balance’ report which explored the impact becoming a parent has on working life, employment and career. The results, which were based on a survey of 4,200 local parents, show that 63% of parents made changes to the way they worked after becoming a parent, such as altering the nature of their employment, changing their working hours or choosing a different pattern of work.

Yet, despite the majority of parents making changes to their employment to accommodate family responsibilities, 77% commented that it was more difficult to progress or develop a career after having children.

A staggering 91% of parents commented that it is difficult to combine work with family commitments and responsibilities.

The role of the employer in better supporting parents was paramount in the results – because when it comes to creating a suitable work-life balance, the employer is at the front line, they are crucial in facilitating and encouraging work-life balance.

How can employers better support parents?

The parents in our ‘Striking the Balance’ survey suggested five key actions which employers could adopt to better support working parents:

1. Practice increased flexibility

This could be through the provision of policies, such as flexitime or compressed hours. However, a flexible approach could simply include facilitating parents when they need to take time off to deal with emergencies. Some parents suggested allowing parents to work at home when their children are ill, or allowing the build-up of TOIL to facilitate other commitments.

2. Ensure equality of opportunity

Numerous parents commented that once they were on a part-time contract they were no longer eligible to apply for senior roles, or conversely managers or senior officials felt that they could no longer request flexibility. A number of respondents suggested solutions to this such as home-working or job-share.

3. Provide better information

Many respondents asked that their employers provided better, up-front information on the policies which are available to them, both statutory entitlements and company policy. A number of means in which this could be communicated were suggested, for example using the staff intranet, company newsletters, during inductions and staff workshops.

4. Offer Childcare Support

The cost of childcare can cause a significant financial burden for families, and finding affordable and suitable childcare can also be a challenge. Many parents suggested that their employer could help with childcare through providing the Childcare Voucher scheme, which helps parents save up to £1,800 per year on their childcare bill.

Other parents suggested that employers make available onsite childcare for their employees. This is convenient for parents, and can also help save money on the cost though the Workplace Nurseries Scheme.

5. Be more understanding

Aside from all other asks, many parents simply called for their employers to be more understanding of working parents and their needs. A number of respondents commented that they wished for their employer to be more approachable and open to supporting parents and discussing flexibility.

For those employers who offer family friendly work practices, parents called for employers to respect the policies in place, for example looking at the workload of part-time employees and managing their work expectations better, or not organising meetings during non-working hours.

We have developed a ‘How to be a Family Friendly Employer’ guide based on the findings of ‘Striking the Balance’. To download the full guide click here.