Why now is the time to rethink your support for working parents

Should we think again about the kind of support we provide for working parents?

It's the emerging theme for the political parties as we enter conference season. It was also one of the questions which the first of our new Connected learning webinars for the HR community wanted to address last week.

Why think about it right now? After all, in 2013 we should take it as a given that there can only be a few in HR who don’t understand the need to make sure that your organisation doesn’t lose the talent – male and female - it has invested in when your employees start to have a family.

But, as our speaker Sarah- Jane Butler from Parental Choice pointed out, the combination of a new system which will support employee childcare from 2015 and changing working patterns means that many employers will benefit from revisiting precisely how and what they do to support working parents and whether this is adequate.

The issue of the changes in 2015 should be a major driver for any organisation to look again at what it is doing. There will be winners and losers under the new scheme - single parents and those with children over the age of 12 are two groups who will find their eligibility changes - and so there will be groups of parents who will do well to enrol into an existing scheme provided through their employer as soon as possible. We can’t expect employees to be experts in the ins and outs of childcare funding, even when the new system is unveiled later this year. So employers can do a lot to help working parents by explaining and supporting them through the changes.

It is equally important however, for organisations to realise that support for working parents can and should go further than the basics benefits of childcare vouchers and maternity leave. As Sarah-Jane Butler points out in our webinar, it is the non-traditional benefits which make employees feel valued and supported. Talks on parenting issues, support with finding local childcare and a formal emergency childcare policy are some of the things which some employers are implementing.

One inevitable questions is, of course, why are parents so special?

The answer is that organisations cannot afford to have employees whose performance is held back by worries about their home life any more than they can afford to have people who feel alienated or excluded because of the attitudes to working parents. People with children make up a large proportion of the workforce and ultimately there is a bottom line impact – whether this is due to increased costs through employee churn or simply sub-par performance – from not engaging this group.

HR has to be the owner of this issue both from a strategic perspective (how is my organisation going to deal with this?) and a tactical one (what are we going to do?). This needs to start with an understanding of how many working parents you have in the organisation – you’d be surprised at how few know this number – and the kind of support they need.

The next step should be to benchmark best practice in your sector and beyond (our webinar has a good case study of the kind of provisions a University employer is making). Then you can work out the benefits – traditional ones like childcare vouchers and new ones – that you can deliver which your employees need.

As Sarah-Jane Butler says in our webinar, this isn’t necessarily about starting big: every organisation is different in terms of the people they have to work on initiatives for working parents and the budget available. What is important is to think again and start out down the path of improving the support you give working parents: your organisation will benefit and so will your employees.

This article was written by Andy Philpott, and originally posted on www.hrzone.co.uk

Author: Andy Philpott | Category: Blog | 30/09/2013 | 0

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