Having spent over two decades supporting working parents and carers with all aspects of raising children and integrating work and family, it has given me a good insight into what organisations can do to support their employees with caring responsibilities – irrespective of sector or where they are based in the world.
Parents or carers make up about 40% of the UK workforce, so it makes business sense to look after them, as people are your biggest asset. It will assist with recruitment and retention of talent, increase productivity, motivation, engagement, wellbeing, trust, loyalty and reduce absenteeism.
Corporates really need to recognise, acknowledge and appreciate the multiple transferable skills and qualities that parents and carers bring to the workplace.
Here is a list of practical ways in which parents and carers can feel supported.
Make no assumptions/expectations
The definition of a working parent or carer is broad in scope with multiple, diverse family units.
Ask open-ended questions and really listen to what individuals need. These needs are likely to change and evolve over time.
Know your organisation’s strengths & weaknesses
Speak to and survey parents /carers. Understand their unique pain points and how you can support them.
Nurture a culture where flexibility and outcome based targets for ALL is the norm. This is the cornerstone of attracting a diverse, inclusive workforce. Explain your flexible working culture: what do you mean by it?
Explore reduced hours, term time hours, job sharing, part time roles and compressed days.
Family-friendly policies & benefits
Have these in place and ensure they are easy to access so people know they exist and are simple to interpret.
Make this option the norm for all employees. Develop strong communication strategies and regular check-ins. Ensure out of sight does not mean out of mind.
Advertise roles as flexible with carefully thought through job design – not just full time job roles squeezed into fewer days.
Have a returnship programme in place and advertise you are open to returners who have been on extended leave. Be open-minded about caregiver gaps in CVs.
Diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging needs to be embedded within your company culture and not just regarded as an HR issue.
Supportive line managers
The relationship with managers is one of the most significant factors in a carer’s ability to navigate the demands of work and family. Provide training for managers so they can take the lead on explaining processes and understand the specific needs of those with caring responsibilities, especially at various transition stages.
Employees need to have a sense of belonging, purpose and good work-life integration. Be an engaged listener, foster psychological safety, help employees to feel valued and respected.
Parents and carers should feel comfortable to discuss family, work and career progression. You can categorise communication so they can prioritise and manage their time, for example: Need ASAP, not urgent, for next week, FYI only.
Normalise parental leave so mums or dads who take it won’t be regarded as less committed or concerned about the impact on career progression. Paid leave should be available for all categories of carers.
One of the keys to gender parity is encouraging dads to take parental leave and work flexibly.
Highlight and share stories of good practice and model setting healthy boundaries to find time for work, family and yourself. Employees who are carers at all levels of the business, should be leaving loud and proud.
Family network/employee resource group
Build a peer-led community to raise awareness, educate, normalise common challenges and share experiences. These networks benefit enormously from a direct line of communication to senior management with exec sponsors.
Access to affordable childcare
Availability and cost of childcare is a fundamental part of employee infrastructure. Explore subsidising childcare, tax free childcare schemes, backup childcare or even onsite nurseries for large organisations.
Change start times, end times and meetings times to accommodate drop-off and pick-up.
Educating Matters have 20+ years of experience supporting parents & carers across a vast range of sectors globally. We have a strong sense of what works well but are also always open to creating more bespoke content and support based on your specific needs.
We also work with parents individually on all aspects of educating and raising children through 1-2-1s, our online parenting course and work with schools.