How companies can better support parents in the workplace

In the UK, there are approximately 13 million working parents that juggle their job responsibilities and childcare. For some, balancing work and children becomes infeasible, resulting in skilled people leaving the workforce to focus on their families full-time. This situation disproportionately affects women, who make up 84% of the 1.75 million people who give up work for this reason. The issue has been further perpetuated by spiralling childcare costs, a lack of parental leave and rigid working patterns.

Forward-thinking companies can change this by adopting family-friendly policies and supporting workers to thrive as parents and as employees. Such an approach leads to a happier, healthier and more productive workforce.

However, being a family-friendly workplace doesn’t just benefit working parents. When an organisation demonstrates that they support parents, there is better employee retention, increased gender equality and staff diversity. A family-focused culture also helps organisations build their reputation and attract top talent from a wider pool of candidates.

How can companies support working parents?

It's obvious that there are many benefits that can come from supporting parents in the workplace but to do this effectively, companies need to find out what their employees actually need and then deliver this. This could be achieved through a staff survey, for instance, or a fireside chat.

In the meantime, we’ve collated a list of working parent support types that are often highlighted as being valuable to employees and, therefore, are worth considering when developing family-friendly policies.

Flexible working

At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, many businesses had to change how they operated due to restrictions, resulting in a large part of the workforce working from home or having flexible working patterns to reduce staff numbers in the workplace.

For lots of working parents, this setup was beneficial, allowing them to manage work and family life more effectively and giving them more free time. After restrictions were lifted, half of parents worried that a return to less flexible working would have a negative impact on their family life. In addition, nearly 70% of working parents said they would be more likely to apply for a job that’s advertised as flexible than one that’s not in the future.

It's clear that the shift in working arrangements during the pandemic gave employees and employers insight into how well things can work when parents are given flexibility.

It’s important to remember that flexible working doesn’t just encompass working from home but also covers a variety of options that enable working parents to meet both their family and work commitments effectively and autonomously. Examples of flexible working arrangements include:

  • Flexitime
  • Phased returns
  • Job-sharing
  • Part-time hours
  • Compressed hours
  • Split shifts
  • Annualised hours
  • Term-time working

Equal parental leave

There is statutory parental leave for UK workers who are welcoming a new child into the family. However, the pay received whilst on leave (a basic rate of £156.66 per week) leaves many parents facing financial hardship or making the decision to return to work early, meaning they lose valuable bonding time with their child. A survey by Maternity Action found that more than half of new mothers relied on credit cards or loans to get by and 96% worried about money during their maternity leave.

Workplaces can take steps to combat this issue and promote equality by giving employees parental leave that is above the statutory minimum, irrespective of their gender. For example, from January 2023, NatWest will be allowing all working parents to take a full year of leave, with 24 weeks being fully paid and a further 15 weeks being covered at the statutory rate.

Mental health support

Compared with non-parents, employed parents are twice as likely to strongly agree that they are worn out at the end of the day. In addition, 3 in 4 working parents say they are suffering from stress and anxiety as a result of trying to balance work and family commitments.

Supporting employees' mental health is important regardless of whether they are parents or not but understanding the mental health issues that can arise from juggling work and childcare can help employers to provide tailored well-being support.

Examples of mental health support for working parents include:

  • Signposting to resources
  • Creating a culture of openness
  • Providing access to support groups and parenting communities
  • Access to counselling or therapy services
  • Online support
  • Paid mental health days

Safe space for breastfeeding

According to a report by Peninsula, less than a quarter of UK businesses provide a breastfeeding space in the workplace and only 43% of employers are comfortable with employees breastfeeding at work.

However, providing a breastfeeding or pumping area in the workplace allows parents to continue their routine, supports the health and development of their children and improves employee retention.

Any breastfeeding or pumping area should be private and hygienic. Furniture should be comfortable and ideally allow employees to recline or lay down. It should also include somewhere where their milk can be stored. In addition, breastfeeding parents are entitled to more frequent rest breaks.

Family and family-planning benefits

15% of the population experience infertility and 7% of these individuals identify as LGBTQIA+. Providing family planning benefits is a significant step toward inclusion and equality for those that cannot start a family through traditional means and those that cannot access fertility treatment through other avenues due to eligibility criteria or cost.

Family planning benefits can include access to information, consultations, and diagnostic testing through to coverage for such fertility treatments as IUI, IVF, surrogacy, and egg and sperm freezing.

These benefits can help employees to add to their families but if an employer wants to continue their support, then they should consider offering family benefits on top. Family benefits encompass a range of assistance and initiatives that help working parents financially and/or practically. These benefits can be especially valuable when you consider that 40% of employees cite family responsibilities as the main reason for time off work and 25% of workers who care for children and older relatives report symptoms of poor mental health. Family benefits include such things as:

  • Workplace creches or nurseries
  • Childcare
  • Discounts on goods and services
  • Everyday assistance for family members
  • Household help

Meet companiions. We offer a simple, trusted way for employers to provide on-demand, in-person support for working parents. With our handy and easy-to-use app, employees can find the right companiion for them, and book support as and when they need it. This could be anything from after-school care for their kids or running necessary errands so that they can spend valuable time with their family. 

Whilst supporting parents is a large part of what we do, companiions helps all employees, from millennials to the older generation. Get in touch to book a free demo of our employee benefits and find out how we can help you to support all of your people today.