WHY YOU SHOULD BE SUPPORTING WORKING PARENTS... AND HOW YOU CAN DO IT

Posted in Employee Engagement, Behaviour change, Positive Workplace Culture, Employee Health and Wellbeing Programmes, Health and Wellbeing at Work, transforming behaviour, Retain Talent, Change behaviour, Retaining Employees, Improving quality of life, Employee Health and Wellbeing, company culture

by Iain Thomson on Oct 30, 2018 11:26:11 AM

For employees with children and growing families, do you think they lose focus on their careers once they have a family to care for?

It’s a common misconception that most employees are less engaged with their careers after they become parents. Whilst it’s a widely held view in today’s workplace, there’s one major factor which everyone should wise up to: It’s simply not true!

Being a parent is a huge responsibility for anyone and, perhaps understandably, the misconception arises that working parents lack commitment to their jobs. Raising and caring for children is a full-time job, so when it comes to professional careers, you could be forgiven into thinking that the world of work must take a back seat.

This misconception leads to some employers taking the opinion that helping their employees to juggle childcare and their career is a waste of effort –  after all, why plough time, effort and money into supporting staff who will probably be more focused on their families, rather than their jobs?

Time to bust out some workplace facts…

SUPPORTING PARENTS IMPROVES STAFF RETENTION

“Studies have shown that a flexible, family-friendly workplace can motivate staff, reduce staff turnover, help attract new staff, reduce workplace stress, and generally enhance worker satisfaction and productivity,” writes Anu Partanen in The Nordic Theory of Everything.

Companies that have introduced family-friendly measures often report significant reductions in staff turnover, less absenteeism and an increased likelihood that mothers return to their original employers after their maternity leave. Partanen’s findings mirror those discovered by consultancy firm Great Place to Work.

After surveying more than 400,000 employees, the company found that parents are more dedicated to their job and are planning long-term futures at their organisation. Similarly, a survey of business owners by the U.S. Centre for Economic and Policy Research said that parental leave programs had either had a positive or no negative effect on profitability and performance (91% of respondents), productivity (89%), turnover (93%) and employee morale (99%).

THE BENEFITS OF A BETTER WORK-LIFE BALANCE

Employers who work to create a good work-life balance for their employees stand to reap many benefits: including retention, recognition, morale and productivity. For example, a study carried out by Sodexo in seven countries found that 89% of SME leaders noticed an increase in productivity and efficiency after implementing measures to make it easier for employees to manage their personal lives.

For example, in Australia companies such as Westpac and Deloitte have successfully used Parents At Work, a service that offers support, coaching and courses to help people balance their family, personal well-being and career responsibilities. By providing such services, both companies have been recognised as progressive employers and family-friendly workplaces.

ATTRACTING AND RETAINING TALENT

Clearly, the work-life balance is an important aspect of a job when it comes to attracting and retaining employees, either before or after parenthood. And the thing is, the solutions to balancing work and life can be very simple. The alternative is to lose talented people, particularly women, who cannot easily be replaced – something which can restrict both growth and success for any organisation.

Kieran Snyder, the CEO and co-founder of writing platform Textio, interviewed 716 women who left the tech industry and found that 67% gave motherhood as their main reason for quitting; with only 3% of those interviewed saying they wanted to return to the tech sector. Finding skilled people on the employment market is a challenge for any company, particularly in the tech field – and almost inevitably involves considerable time, effort and cost.

To avoid these situations, employers need to implement simple, effective parental policies which include the following three must-haves:

1. A SUPPORTIVE CULTURE

Providing effective employee benefits for working parents is a first step, but a vain one if employees don’t use them because of social pressure. According to Kelton Global, 41% of U.S. working parents don’t believe they could be successful without a supportive boss. A supportive office environment starts with a leader who sets the tone for a more caring culture and who raises awareness among all employees. And when it comes to a supportive culture, little things – such as flexible working – can really make a huge difference to an employee’s wellbeing.

This supportive culture can also be promoted by working parents themselves. After she came back from maternity leave, Liz Marlow, at Sodexo in the UK, launched a Working Parents Group that helps on many issues, such as how to claim childcare vouchers and how to request flexible time.

2. EASY ACCESS TO CHILDCARE FACILITIES

Supporting part of the cost of childcare or providing a dedicated childcare in the workplace service can be a decisive argument in the war for talent. Sodexo, in France, is a partner of Crèche Attitude that provides childcare solutions at local centres or workplace-based facilities.

Employees can also swap part of their pay for childcare vouchers to spend with their chosen provider out of their pre-tax salary – although it’s important to note that the UK Government discontinued the scheme to new applicants after the 1st October 2018, so there is now a larger focus than ever on employers to help working parents bridge the gap left by the scheme finishing.

Once she knows her baby is in good hands, the next priority for a relaxed and productive working mother is to feed her baby properly. Google offers mothers a lactation room with hospital-grade breast pumps, while in the Philippines, 79% of employers provide private spaces where women can pump.

In Chile, nursing mothers have a paid hour off each day that helps them juggle their schedule. Some choose to come to work an hour later (or leave an hour earlier), while others take two 30-minute breaks during the day to pump milk or to go home to feed their baby in person.

In Spain, increasing concerns about parents’ work-life balance have led to more opportunities for working from home, flexible hours and childcare services. Sodexo has responded to the latter need by offering companies the Guadería Pass, which reduces the cost of childcare through a tax exemption. “Each month the parent receives an e-voucher by email and they send it to the childcare centre,” explains Miriam Martín, Digital Marketing Leader and Design, Sodexo Spain.

“The day care centre enters the e-voucher code on Sodexo’s website to receive payment for the service. So, the company benefits from a streamlined service in terms of admin, the employee saves money and the nursery attracts new clients and improves its brand image.”

In Chile, Sodexo’s Párvulo Pass is used by more than 400 customers and is accepted at 700 childcare centres across the country. “Along with centralising the administration of a childcare benefit and reducing the administration costs, our platform also helps parents to search for a day care centre that matches the parent’s working hours,” says Rodrigo Fuentes, Employee Benefits Manager, at Sodexo Chile. “Clients can enter and review information such as parental income and use a search engine for day care centres - complete with their commercial conditions, service days and values.”

Free ebook: Family Matters  Childcare support is now expected from employers more than ever. Find out what  your options are, and why it's so important, in our ebook.

3.   PAID LEAVE: THE BIGGEST PARENTAL PERK

The leader in this area is Sweden with 480 days of paid parental leave, whilst at the opposite end of the spectrum, the United States is the only advanced economy that doesn’t guarantee it. However, more than one-third of organisations worldwide offer parental leave beyond the statutory minimum, according to Mercer’s latest Global Parental Leave report. This includes provision in developing countries, where the rise of women in the workplace is a significant factor.

Having a baby is a massive physical and emotional upheaval which results in a major life adjustment. As a result, employers are becoming more aware that mothers who get enough time to fully recover and build fulfilling family bonding would be more committed to their job. Adobe Systems, for instance, ranks fourth on Working Mother’s best companies list, with its 26 fully paid weeks of maternity leave and 90% retention rate for those who take advantage of it.

Although paid leave has mainly been a woman’s concern, the rise of paid paternity leave is becoming marked around the world, with 84% of employers in India offering such leave, amid a series of socio-cultural and family structure changes. In Chile, a bill called Universal Childcare currently under consideration would include the right of fathers to access day care for their children during working hours. “This initiative is extremely positive for Sodexo,” says Rodrigo Fuentes, “because it is aligned with our policy pillars of diversity and inclusion, and promoting equality between men and women.”

Companies need to realise that the idea of people being less motivated in their work after becoming parents is ‘fake news’ – and that providing a family-friendly work environment with a focus on positive motivation and engagement has real benefits. Parents feel appreciated by firms that help them to juggle their work and home lives and respond by maintaining or increasing their previous levels of productivity. To reap the benefits, employers need to be supportive, to provide some form of help with childcare, and introduce paid leave where this is not already provided by national legislation.

INTERVIEW with ANNE-LAURE LAHAIE, Marketing & Communication Director at Crèche Attitude - Sodexo Group.

 Why are childcare programs so key to retaining working parents?

Finding the perfect childcare solution has become a major concern for young working parents. They have various options when it comes to choosing child care but in France, a majority of families prefer a child care to offer a safe, stable and high-quality care for their children while they’re at work. However, the only problem is it can be challenging to find a place in a child care centre. 

At the same time, more and more employers realise that they need to create a family-friendly environment if they want to retain working parents. By offering their favourite solution to take care of their children, employers give the most valuable social benefit to their employees. Parent-friendly policies turn employers into more attractive places to work and improves retention rates.

How does Crèche Attitude implement childcare services into existing businesses?

Crèche Attitude, one of the country's first private day-care centre operators, supports existing businesses to ensure their employees' well-being at work. Crèche Attitude operates more than 1,000 child care centres throughout France. The families pay the same price as in a public day care centre. They’re also able to choose a care centre close to their home in our child care centre network if the employer accepts to provide financial assistance for places in childcare.

The centres are all easily accessible, with opening hours adapted to parents’ professional constraints. Along free-standing centres, Crèche Attitude also provides onsite childcare solutions at workplace-based facilities. Crèche Attitude assists the businesses as well as the parents throughout the implementation. Furthermore, Crèche Attitude proposes programs during holidays for older children (4-12 years).

Can you name some of the benefits of programs like Crèche Attitude for parents and children?

Working parents are facing the biggest difficulties to maintain work-life balance. The program we offer strongly contributes to improve this balance making life easier through large opening hours and centres close to home.

Leaving their child in a high quality, trusted childcare centre can give them peace of mind and greater availability while they’re at work.

In our child care centres, children get to spend time around one another in a supervised, structured and safe environment. Our centres focus entirely on the children’s development and well-being. It includes a nice mix of activities during the day to teach different skills, such as supporting children to appreciate and care for the environment. Crèche Attitude has established an environmentally responsible approach transforming its facilities into eco-friendly child care centres.

Also, Crèche Attitude has launched an app which allows parents and child care centres to easily communicate. The app also enables to view photos not to feel like they’re missing out on moments while their child is in day care, access billing information, menu and calendar sharing.

SUPPORTING WORKING PARENTS IS JUST THE BEGINNING...

Whether the goal for your HR team is supporting hard-working parents, healthier employees, reducing absenteeism, or simply increasing productivity, real change within organisations can be achieved by focusing on the wellbeing of their staff; and this starts all starts with building an engaged workforce.

GET ESSENTIAL INSIGHTS INTO HOW YOU CAN help INFLUENCE THE BEST BEHAVIOURS OF YOUR WORKFORCE TO CREATE TRUE WORKPLACE ENGAGEMENT - DOWNLOAD OUR FREE EBOOK today.

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