Traditionally new mums have been faced with the choice between a career and a family. According to parent advice website and forum, Mumsnet, 76% of women feel less employable when they return from maternity leave.
With the campaigning of various organisations and the introduction of flexible working into UK law, employers across the UK are waking up to the value of providing a positive environment in which its staff can be both employees and parents with varying types of support.
What is parental support?
Parental support is the ways in which an organisation enables its staff to fulfil their professional potential, while not detracting from their family lives. Parental support can come a number of forms.
While many stick to the legal minimum, other organisations opt to start their support from the very beginning of the parental journey, going above statutory minimum requirements.
Particularly for new dads, they may offer more than the legal minimum of 10 working days. Depending on the level of support, some will give new dads the option of taking extra leave unpaid, while others will go even further by offering additional leave at a percentage or even full salary.
Requesting flexible working is a legal right in the UK, and many employers recognise the value of actively encouraging a more flexible working culture.
There are several forms of flexible working, but remote working, compressed hours, part-time hours and job-sharing are likely to be most attractive to dads wanting a better work-life balance.
Things don’t always go to plan when raising a child, meaning some employers are more flexible and understanding when things happen unexpectantly.
If a child is ill, for instance, some parents are afforded a few days leave at full pay. And in other circumstances, organisations may pay childcare costs when a remote or part-time worker is required to change their schedule at short notice.
Some employers set up groups for their working parents, giving new and expecting parents the time during work hours to meet, support and advise each other both on parenting matters and the challenges of being a working parent.
Employer case study: Deloitte
One organisation leading the way in its parental support is Deloitte, the world’s largest professional services company. With over 286,000 employees around the world, Deloitte has a considerable number of parents among its workforce.
In 2018, it received accreditation from Mumsnet’s Family Friendly programme as an employer that goes the extra mile to support its working parents, and has consistently been named in Top 10 Employers for Working Families over the past 10 years.
In their own words:
“As an inclusive employer that wants to attract and retain the best talent, we know it’s important to people to be able to balance their careers with commitments outside of work, whether that is as a working parent or carer, or to pursue other interests.
Working Families Network
Our Working Families Network has been around for 10+ years. Emergency back-up care and our 24/7 advice line have also been available for a number of years. Our agile working approach was introduced in 2014, followed in June 2015 by the introduction of our Working Parents Transition Programme.
In 2013, people were telling us they wanted a better work-life balance, despite us providing all standard flexible working options. Our working mothers, in particular, were struggling to believe they could have a successful career and be a parent – and some were leaving us as a result.
Now, work life balance is no longer the main reason people choose to leave our firm, people actually choose to join us because of our approach to agile working.
Working Parents Transition Programme
Since introducing the Working Parents Transitions Programme (which sees external coaches provide pre and post-natal support to parents) in 2015, we have seen a 10% increase in retention of women after maternity leave and 94% of senior women who have completed the course have stayed with the firm.
We recognised that the retention of female talent after maternity leave was affecting the potential pipeline of women able to progress to more senior roles, thereby impacting the achievement of our aim to increase female representation in the partnership to 25% by 2020.
We regularly monitor the support provided and adjust our approach as required – for example, we have recently widened our Working Parents Transition Programme to be available to all grades rather than from manager grade and above."
Setting up a support group
Working parent groups can provide invaluable support, advice and reassurance. While it can be incredibly difficult adjusting to the new ‘normal’, the brilliant thing about returning to work is that you’re often surrounded by people who have gone through the exact same thing and some who are even going through it at the same time. Not only can they give advice on the challenges of just being a parent, but also how to balance building a successful career while raising a family.
In scenarios where an organisation doesn’t already have a working parent support group, employees can take it upon themselves to launch a group. But how do you go about it?
1. Talk to a manager
Talking to a senior member of staff should be the first step in launching your group. At larger businesses, this might mean going to the HR department. For smaller businesses it might be a line manager or even the owner.
These conversations not only provide further advice on setting up the group, but also makes the organisation aware of the desire for more support.
You should also ask what support the company is willing to offer. HR departments may be able to provide a small budget to cover the cost of refreshments, or even recommend to senior managers that the group be given time during working hours to meet.
2. Invite everyone
Mums, dads, new parents, expecting parents, parents of older children, adoptive parents. Make sure your group is completely inclusive.
Some may not feel like they have everything figured out and don’t need to join, others may even be offended that you think they need support. And while some parents will have seen their children grow into adults and not need support, they may have a desire to support their colleagues. For larger organisations, you should ask your HR department for help in getting the message out across the company.
3. Decide what your group will do
From the outset, it’s good to have a clear idea of what your group will do and how to do it:
- Do you simply want an ad hoc format where parents raise the issues they’ve experienced since the last meeting?
- Will you want something more structured, where each meeting focuses on a particular topic?
- Or is your goal to formulate policies and ideas to present to your employer?
What support lies outside of work?
Although more and more employers are increasing their support to parents, there are other ways of receiving support as a working dad.
1. Campaign Groups
Independent organisations have been fighting to reduce the challenges facing working parents for decades.
- Initially started as an initiative focused on working mums in 1979, Working Families now dedicates itself to changing the way parents, both men and women, live and work.
- Mumsnet’s Family Friendly programme both campaigns for better support and shines a light on the organisations going above and beyond for their working parents.
- Family Lives has been tackling the most difficult issues parents face for 150 years.
- And Family Lives works to transform the lives of families, supporting parents in all aspects of their lives.
These organisations actively offer advice and support to parents while simultaneously engaging with employers to encourage and advise them on developing and maintaining family-friendly working practices.
2. Social media communities and forums
A quick search of Facebook generates a list of a huge array of community groups for dads to connect. These groups can offer support and learnings from each other’s experiences. DaddiLife has one just for dads at work.
Similar to social media communities, forums provide a platform for parents to seek advice and provide it themselves in a structured way.
Although topics and questions are often solely parenting related, the openness of social media groups and forums gives their users the freedom to look for advice on anything in the context of being a parent.