Beyond parental leave - how to create an inclusive workplace for parents

In this blog we'll explore how companies can step up to support their employees through every stage of their lives and careers.

6th May 2024

In this blog we will talk about the importance of creating inclusive workplaces where parents, especially new parents, can truly thrive. Offering enhanced parental leave and other family-friendly benefits isn't just a nice-to-have anymore; it's essential for attracting and retaining top talent. At a time when the government is rolling out an expansion offree childcarefor parents struggling withrising nursery costs, it’s clear that workers are still reliant on employers’ support when it comes to looking after young children.

Companies who step up to support their employees through every stage of their lives and careers are winning in the battle for talent.

So let’s take a look  at how you can embed family friendly benefits and policies into their Employee Value Proposition.

In this blog we will look at : 

  • What is enhanced parental leave?
  • Companies leading the way with enhanced parental leave
  • Beyond parental leave - how to create an inclusive workplace for parents
  • Flexa stories : How has flexible working impacted working parents?

83% of our top 100 Flexified companies offer enhanced maternity and paternity leave.

Amidst a tightening labour market and the rollback of flexible work options for many under RTO mandates, there's one benefit that job seekers are refusing to compromise on: enhanced parental leave. When it comes to attracting and retaining top talent, companies need to think beyond the basics to compete. It's not just about remote vs hybrid setups anymore; there's a whole world of benefits and practices such as enhanced parental leave that the most in demand companies are embracing.

According to our latest Flexible Working Index, more workers expressed a preference for enhanced parental leave in March (16% in total) than in any other month over the last year. This trend coincides with the government's expansion of free childcare for parents struggling with rising nursery costs.

Flexa’s Index looks closely at a sample of over 4,000 job adverts and 840,000 job searches, as well as the preferences expressed by over 8,500 job seekers between January and March 2024.

What is enhanced parental leave?

Enhanced parental leave refers to a policy that exceeds the minimum legal requirements for maternity leave or parental leave provided by an employer. It typically offers additional time off and/or increased pay for new parents, including fathers, mothers, and other primary caregivers.

These policies support new parents, which has a real benefit on improving employee satisfaction, retention, and well-being. By giving employees these benefits, employers can help new parents bond with their child, adjust to their new family situation, and return to work refreshed and ready to work.

Beyond parental leave - how to create an inclusive workplace for parents

Parental leave is a crucial benefit for new parents, but it's only the beginning. Companies need to do more to support parents beyond just offering time off. From flexible working arrangements to on-site childcare options, creating an inclusive workplace for parents is essential for employee well-being and retention. Here are some ways you can build a supportive environment for working parents:

  1. Flexible working arrangements: Give parents the option to work flexible hours and work in a way that suits them. This gives them the freedom to adjust their work hours to accommodate school drop-offs, doctor's appointments, and other family commitments. It not only helps them better balance work and family life but also relieves the stress of having to work in a constrained way.
  2. Create an inclusive working environment: Create a workplace culture where parents feel supported and valued. Offer employee resource groups or support groups for parents to connect, share experiences, and provide mutual support. Make sure that company policies and practices are inclusive of parents, such as scheduling meetings during school hours and term time.
  3. Childcare support: Recognise the importance of childcare for working parents and provide various forms of support. This could include offering on-site childcare facilities, providing subsidies or reimbursement for childcare expenses, or partnering with local childcare providers to offer discounted rates. Backup childcare services can also be valuable for parents when regular arrangements fall through.
  4. Parental support programs: Implement programs designed to support parents in their dual roles as employees and caregivers. Parental coaching or mentorship programs can offer guidance on managing work-life balance, navigating parental leave policies, and returning to work after leave. Workshops or seminars on parenting skills, stress management, and time management can also be beneficial if parents want them!
  5. Mental health and wellbeing support : Adjusting to being a new parent can be challenging, especially when returning to work. It's essential for companies to provide appropriate support to parents during this transition.
  6. Career development opportunities: Make sure that parents have equal access to career advancement opportunities. Flexible career paths that allow for lateral moves or part-time options can accommodate parents' changing needs over time. Provide development opportunities such as training or certifications that can be pursued on a flexible schedule, allowing parents to enhance their skills while balancing their responsibilities.

Companies leading the way with enhanced parental leave

Many companies are at the forefront of offering enhanced parental leave. Here are some of our Flexified companies that are leading the charge and how they have seen first hand the impact it has made.

SilverRail Technologies, on enhanced maternity and paternity leave

“At SilverRail , we prioritise the well-being and needs of our employees at every stage of their journey to parenthood. Throughout pregnancy, expectant parents receive support, flexible work arrangements, and accommodations tailored to their needs. Additionally, our policies extend to provide compassionate support for pregnancy loss, generous adoption leave to facilitate bonding, and the promotion of shared parental leave to foster gender equality and work-life balance. Through these initiatives, we strive to create an inclusive workplace where all employees feel supported, valued, and empowered to navigate the joys and challenges of parenthood.

To a company considering rolling out advanced parental leave policies but hesitating, I would emphasise the importance of supporting employees both professionally and personally. By offering comprehensive parental leave benefits, the company demonstrates a commitment to its employees' well-being beyond the office walls. This sends a powerful message that employees are valued as whole individuals, not just for their contributions to the company.”

Victoria Bacon, Senior Global Talent & Culture Manager @ SilverRail

Mars, on their parental leave policy

At Mars UK we believe that both parents are equally important to their child, and to us as an employer. We are proud of our industry-leading Equal Parental Leave policy and the support it provides our Associates with family structures of all kinds. Our policy means any Associate who has more than 12 months' continuous service with Mars UK is eligible to 52 weeks parental leave, with 26 weeks paid at 90% when they become a parent.

Here are some more Flexified companies leading the way with enhanced parental and maternity leave.

Amplifi: A specialist consultancy providing Advisory, Delivery and Support services for data management, data governance and data quality.

Blood Cancer UK: A UK-based charity dedicated to funding research into all blood cancers including leukaemia, lymphoma and myeloma.

Impression: A digital marketing agency with a hybrid-working approach that aims to empower people to work from the environment that best suits them.

Atom Bank: The UK’s first app-based bank to help people make the most of their savings, apply for a mortgage or take out a loan for your business, we provide simple, secure products that can make a difference.

Virgin Media 02: An award-winning fibre broadband provider & telecommunications company that manages 47 million UK connections across broadband, mobile, TV and home

Elvie: A company with a mission to empower women through radical female-first technology

Perlego: Perlego's ambition is to become the world’s online learning library, a single place where learners can instantly access all of the world’s academic content for less than the price of a single book.

Microsoft: Microsoft’s mission is to empower every person and every organisation on the plant to achieve more.

You can check out more companies offering enhanced parental leave here.

Flexa stories : How has flexible working impacted working parents?

We recently had the opportunity to speak with some parents in the Flexa team about their experiences of working flexibly.

Here is what they had to say…

'Flexible working has enabled me to have a significantly more hands-on impact in the raising of my kids. I’m able to help out with the school runs, toddler clubs and other child care duties so much more. It’s not solely down to my wife to manage, which means she has time to focus on her career too!'

Sam Edwards, Lead Front End Developer

“Flexible working not only supports me to be a more hands on Dad, attending swimming lessons, school runs, nativity, sports days etc but it also reduces the burden on Mum. We’re both able to “pick up the pieces'' if one of our children is ill, or on school holidays. My wife can also continue with her career safe in the knowledge that we can split childcare equally. Supporting each other to be the best parents we can be, present in our children's lives and present in our careers.”

Oliver Taylor, Senior Account Manager

“Flexible working has been game changing since becoming a parent! It means I get to both work and enjoy time as a mum with my son. Before I returned to work I was so worried about missing important milestones, but working remotely means I'm there when he masters a new skill (clapping this week!). Working has been so beneficial for my mental health too, so I'm glad that flexible working helps me balance both.”

Jodie Loftus,  EVP Consultant