How to support Parental Welfare in your business

How to support Parental Welfare in your business

In a recent report by the Working Families Index, it was found that six in ten working parents and carers in the UK believed it had become more difficult to make ends meet over the past three years, due to the cost-of-living crisis.

Many of us have been affected by the cost-of-living crisis in some way, as many working families have entered a whole new realm of financial hardship. However, recent studies by the Working Families Index have confirmed that parents on lower incomes are much more likely to bear the brunt of the rapidly increasing cost of living. Foregoing promotions, reducing their working hours, and leaving their role altogether has been an unfortunate reality for many. Compounded by the fact that they are twice as likely to have their flexible working requests rejected.

The combination of these increasing pressures is leaving some working parents drowning in stress and others without employment.

So, as an employer, what can you do to alleviate some of these pressures and ensure you are able to retain your talent? A lot of it comes down to your family leave policies and approach to flexible working.

Family Leave Policies

Ensuring you have up to date family leave policies demonstrates that you approach all employees in a consistent manner when it comes to the taking of family/carers leave. It also provides transparency for your employees when requesting such leave.

As a minimum, it would be advisable to have in place the following:

– Maternity leave & pay policy
– Paternity leave & pay policy
– Shared parental leave & pay policy
– Parental leave policy
– Carers leave policy

Some businesses now offer enhanced parental leave pay (above the statutory minimum) to reduce the level of financial hardship during a period of parental leave – however, for many businesses, this is not an affordable option.

By having policies in place to confirm an employee’s basic entitlements, you will be providing transparency regarding eligibility to such forms of leave and the pay that will be received. This will go a long way in relieving some of the uncertainty that may otherwise be experienced. Up to date and easy to understand policies enable working parents/carers to plan for such occasions where they may need to take periods of family-leave and affords them the opportunity, where possible, to better plan their finances for such a time.

Family Working Policies

The opportunity to work flexibly is still somewhat of an unlevel playing field, with many working families, particularly those on a lower income, experiencing disparate access to flexible working arrangements.

Research carried out by the Working Families Index suggests that those who were successful in requesting flexible working were a third less likely to leave their roles in order to manage childcare, 25% less likely to fall into debt and half as likely to be impacted negatively by mental health due to difficulties accessing childcare.

This research demonstrates the impact that an employer can make by reevaluating their job design and improving their flexible work offering.

You may be aware of the Flexible Working Bill, which has recently achieved Royal Assent. The main aim of this bill was to enable more people to request flexible working, providing balance between home life and work life for those in employment.

The bill will:

– Require employers to consult with an employee before rejecting a flexible working request.
– Enable employees to make two requests for flexible working in the same 12-month period.
– Reduce the amount of time employers have to decide on whether to approve or reject a request for flexible working from three months to two months.
– Remove the requirement that employees must explain the effect of their request on the employer.

There has never been a better time to review what is on offer within your business and consider the short and long term, formal and informal and ad-hoc arrangements that could be available, if not already.

We would also encourage you to consider the following:

– How is your approach to flexible working embedded within your company culture? Are your flexible working arrangements confirmed within your HR policies, or are they at the discretion of your manager? If the latter, how do you know that these are being applied consistently across the board?
– Do you have a clear and consistent process to both requesting and approving flexible working requests?
– What opportunities do you currently take to remind your staff of their right to request flexible working?
– Are your managers trained in the process and competent to deal with flexible working requests appropriately? (Training could also include unconscious bias training).

As employment rates for mothers and fathers is higher than for either men or women without dependent children, it is necessary for employers to make it easier for workers to access flexible working arrangements wherever possible, so that every parent and carer in the workplace can work flexibly if they choose.

Keep an eye out for our next blog, where we cover the forthcoming flexible working changes and other legal updates for 2024 in greater detail.

Carly Anderson-Riley - HR Consultant at Sue Willmott HR and Careers ConsultancyCarly Anderson-Riley
– HR Consultant for Sue Willmott HR & Careers Consultancy.

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