Build An Inclusive Workplace For Working Parents

18th Jul 2022

With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, more and more people have been discussing the unique challenges facing working parents. Balancing work, family and caring responsibilities has always been a struggle, but the COVID-19 pandemic really illuminated how traditional workplaces unfairly penalised working parents. 

According to recent studies: 

It's clear that if companies don't value and support working parents, many will continue to leave the workforce to put their family first – and it doesn't have to be like this. When businesses choose a family-friendly approach, it can help boost employee well-being and morale, increase productivity, and enable companies to attract and retain top talent. 

Here are 5 ways you can attract, employ and retain working parents, creating an inclusive work environment.

Create safe spaces where parents can connect 

Setting up an employee network or focus group for parents and carers can be a powerful way for them to connect, share resources, give feedback and support each other. As Janice Chang writes, "While culture change doesn’t and shouldn’t happen overnight, you can kick off the process by providing parents with spaces in which they can connect with other parent employees, confide in their managers about issues or personal wins, and ultimately thrive."

It's also critical to make this an inclusive space for all employees with parenting or caring responsibilities and to be inclusive of nontraditional family units, including adoptive parents, single parents, queer families and full-time caregiving grandparents. There are many ways that this can take shape, from in-person meetings, Slack channels, and one-on-one time with managers and senior leadership to share experiences and flag concerns. 

Parenting is hard work – building a strong, supportive community can allow employees to thrive, not just survive.

Hire people wanting to return to work

Research by PwC estimates that 76% of professional women on a career break want to return to work. It's important that more employers embrace career returners who often have a wealth of experience and enthusiasm. Companies can tap into this pool of talent by offering structured programmes that offer people returning to work support and mentorship.

Provide an inclusive parental leave package

With 26% of women in the UK going into an average of £2,800 of debt during maternity leave, offering a strong and inclusive parental leave package is important now more than ever. Growing your family, whether by giving birth or through adoption can be a joyful and emotionally taxing experience – and worrying about work or money can make that even more stressful.

Outside of the significant benefit to employees and their families, having an excellent parental leave policy similar to Unleashed, Ably, Planes and Juro, can help boost employee retention, reduce costs associated with re-hiring and training, attract diverse talent, reduce recruitment costs and increase employee well-being. In addition, shifting from maternity leave to parental leave can help with the "motherhood penalty" by giving either partner the choice to take leave or continue working, and offering a shared parental leave policy can help mitigate the gender pay gap and help both parents spend quality time with their newest addition. 

It goes with saying that your parental leave policy needs to be inclusive for single parents, LGBTQIA+ families, and those pursuing fostering or adoption. And it’s important for employees to be encouraged to take parental leave, and for senior leadership to model what that looks like. 

Create child friendly workplaces

It seems simple, but ensuring that your work environment is child friendly can be a small way to support working parents at your company. It might be helpful to have rooms for parents that are pumping, breastfeeding or chestfeeding, toilet facilities with changing tables, and high chairs in kitchen spaces. These small changes can go a really long way.

Prioritise flexible working arrangements

For many working parents, flexibility at work can be a critical component of juggling work, life and caring responsibilities successfully. As such, to both support and retain working parents, companies need to consider prioritising flexible working, whether that means giving employees the option to work from home, or offering flexible hours, which can come in handy when your little one is sick. It's also important to champion alternative working arrangements such as job sharing, or allowing and encouraging employees to work part-time. 

As Oliver Taylor, Flexa's Account Manager shares, "Flexible working has really helped me to remain present in my children’s lives. Following the COVID-19 pandemic, I realised how much I bonded with my daughter, and I wanted that to continue. Working flexibly allows me to do the school pick-up and drop-off, and with no commute, I can use that time to spend quality time with my children, whether that be swimming or riding bikes. Most importantly, it means that my partner does not have to sacrifice her career to take care of our children." 

There are  small but significant steps that companies can take to support parents, such as scheduling meetings in the late morning or early afternoon to allow parents to do school pick-up and drop-offs, including regular breaks during the work day to support pumping/breastfeeding  mums, and giving advance notice for any company functions outside of work hours so that parents can schedule childcare. 

Why transparency matters

At the end of the day, flexibility and inclusivity benefits everybody – not just working parents. And for these changes to work and have maximum impact, companies must publicise the support available for working parents – both internally and externally – to shift the company culture and foster accountability. 

Being accredited on Flexa's website as a verified flexible employer can be a key driver to attracting diverse talent, including parents, carers and returners who are looking for family-friendly employers and environments.