Supporting Working Parents | Inclusive Employers

Supporting Working Parents: balancing changing needs with organisational priorities

What can employers do to support working parents who may need help with balancing work and family life? Read Amandeep Hothi's tips to learn more.

In the UK, there are 19.4 million families, 15% of which are lone parents (ONS, 2022), and many will be working parents.

There’s no doubt that becoming a parent is a life-changing experience, which is unique to each individual family. Which is why it’s crucial that workplaces create flexible cultures and organisational policies which support the changing needs of working parents.

Let’s face it, our work lives seem busier than ever. We are often juggling a hundred and one things all the time, which doesn’t seem to be easing. So how can we promote a good and inclusive work-life balance? How does this work for our colleagues who are parents and what can we do to reduce the stress of balancing the needs of your family and your organisation? 

So, what can leaders and managers do, to help balance the changing needs of parents with the organisations priorities.

The challenging priorities of working parents

Before we do this, let’s look at some of the challenges working parents may face. Research from the Working Families Index 2023 (the UK’s national charity for working parents and carers) highlighted the situation for many lower-income families.

This report, which focused on lower-income families, highlighted:

  • Many parents rely on informal childcare arrangements to help them manage.
  • Six in ten working parents use more informal childcare than they would like to because of the cost and/or availability of more formal childcare arrangements.
  • Many working parents are losing out on career progression opportunities, as they manage their childcare priorities.
  • Many parents must either reduce their hours or quit their jobs altogether.
  • 58% of women and 60% of Black working parents (of those surveyed) had to reduce their hours.
  • The research suggested that almost half of mothers, single parents, and those on Universal Credit, are unable to apply for new roles due to childcare needs.
  • And, four in ten Black, Multi-racial, and Asian parents have had to give up a promotion opportunity.

How flexible is your organisation?

Is flexible working integrated into your organisation’s values and culture?

It’s been three years since the pandemic. In 2020 many organisations across the globe, adapted incredibly quickly to flexible ways of working. This was particularly true for working parents. Organisations showed so much flexibility in where we worked, when we worked, and how we worked. This was more than any one of us had previously ever experienced.

Fast forward three years, and organisations are now having to balance the need to ask employees to return to office premises, whilst still offering flexible working conditions, and retaining staff who now look for flexibility in how they work.

Have you stopped and considered how flexible your working arrangements really are? And are these integrated into your organisation’s values and culture.

Have you considered how these flexible arrangements need to evolve for your staff, especially those who are parents as their need for flexibility changes with the child/children changing priorities.

So, what can you do to support working parents, I hear you ask?

Let’s consider a few options.

Ask and listen to what parents want and need

Consult with your staff. Listen to parents and non-parents to understand and learn what works best for them. Involving non-parents will help you ton understand any potential conflict and learn what your teams need to mitigate against this.

Offer more flexibility in working hours

Building in the opportunity for working parents to split their working hours to suit their needs, supports a culture of trust, collaboration, commitment, productivity – all of which helps keep people.  

Consider different ways of working, such as staggered starts, compressed hours, or flexitime -all of which could help parents manage their childcare needs without having a negative impact on income or their careers.

Create parent-friendly environments

Have a look at your environment, is it possible to offer daycare facilities during working hours? Can parents bring their children to work?

Have you considered what private space is available for those parents who need to express milk? Is this information widely available or does the parent need to ask/find out about this?

Can you offer ‘duvet’ days to staff? Where can they take time off at the last minute to deal with unexpected issues?

Extend or offer enhanced maternity time off

Are all your employees entitled to maternity leave?

On average, working mothers on a low income are only taking 23 weeks of maternity leave. This is four whole months less than the UK average. Revisit your maternity leave policies to ensure they are inclusive, and not just benefiting those who can afford to take the time off.

The working families index highlights that a fifth of working parents on a lower income, were not eligible for parental leave. This was particularly true of the non-birthing parent, of which a quarter had no entitlement.

Focus on results not hours

Shift your focus to what employees achieve instead on the hours’ work. This will help create a culture of compassion, empathy, and kindness. Consider providing a ‘happiness fund’ for all employees as a bonus, to spend on what they need to support their well-being.

Schedule core meetings

Schedule all key meetings well in advance – this will support working parents to help manage their time and responsibilities.

Training for line managers

Overall, great managers do not need to be physically present to deliver strong team performance, it’s vital to abandon this idea of presenteeism. Now is the time to boost trust and expand compassion and inclusive practices.

Think about what training your line managers may need. Supportive line managers make all the difference. Often, it’s the line manager’s discretion that plays a big part in supporting flexible working, with one in ten parents on lower incomes reporting their managers did not actively supporting flexible working.

Now is the time to invest in high quality training on leading and managing flexible and hybrid working.