Gartner, a leading advisory and research company decided to conduct a survey to find out what employee’s main priorities are within their job. The ‘Identifying and Managing Moments That Matter to Employees’ survey found that maternity or paternity leave was the second biggest priority with 26.5% of responses stating it as an important consideration.
So, with parental leave being important amongst employees, HR & Senior Management have the opportunity to support them with big priorities. Knowing that management teams are taking notice of what they need will help to improve overall job satisfaction and employee to management relationships.
Parental leave isn’t the only aspect of parenthood whilst working though, so there are more considerations to make. In this article, we will look at some of the main problems that parents can face and provide tips and examples of how you as someone in a managerial position can positively support them.
Maternal vs Paternal rights
One of the main topics of discussions when it comes to parental rights within the workplace is the differences between what a mother and father is entitled to. For a long time, there’s been inequalities between parental leave lengths and the parameters around it.
In the UK, women have the right to take up to a year of maternity leave. This doesn’t change, regardless of how long you’ve worked for your employer, how much you’re paid or how many hours a week you work. Whether you work for an agency, are a casual worker or on a zero-hours contract – you should be entitled to maternity leave.
For fathers, the situation is quite different.
Parental leave is capped at 1-2 weeks which is much shorter. Entitlement of paternity pay is available, paid at the same rate as statutory maternity pay. To qualify, you must:
- Keep working for your employer up to the date of birth
- Be earning an average of at least £120 a week
The father is also only allowed to accompany their partner or the surrogate mother to 2 antenatal appointments. Leave cannot start before the birth and must end within 56 days of the birth (or due date if premature).
These differences between parental leave times can cause problems during the early developmental stages of a baby’s life and leave the mother feeling like they’re dealing with a stressful time without the support of a partner.
The first few weeks of a baby’s life are key when it comes to creating a bond for parents and any interruptions within this time can increase the likelihood of a father developing postpartum depression.
A study from the Journal of the American Medical Association found that 10% of men around the world experience paternal postpartum depression.
Not only that but the first few months of new parenthood is challenging on its own, so for mothers to be expected to do it with the full-time support for only two weeks, adds extra pressure.
Another option is shared parental leave. Mothers give up their maternity leave, so that they can share it with the father if they are eligible. You qualify if you have 26 weeks service, 15 weeks before the due date.
If a mother isn’t eligible then fathers and partners can still take leave if the woman gives up her entitlement to statutory maternity leave or maternity allowance. Shared parental leave can be taken together or separately, allowing parents to fit it around their needs.
Equalling the gap between how much time off each parent is allowed to take will lead to more bonding time for dad and more support from their partner for mum.
The rules and entitlements above apply for biological parents. But what about if the couple/employee is adopting?
This is a slightly different process and more situation based, so knowing how it works can help you support your employees if they need it. It will show them that you care about their experiences and that they are being given the same amount of respect that a biological parent would.
To make sure that the employee gets the right support, you can ask to see proof of the adoption going through if you need to. It’s important however to do this in a way that is obvious that you are only trying to offer the right support and following procedures, not trying to come across as confrontational or as if you don’t believe the legitimacy of them asking for adoption leave.
Unfortunately, there are some restrictions around who can and cannot get support. If a couple/person are adopting through an agency and have been matched, or received official confirmation of an overseas adoption, then they are entitled to adoption leave.
However, there is no set-in stone entitlement for a person/couple that go through private adoption.
A private adoption is just as emotional and life changing for a private adopter than any other, so you have the chance to allow more equality which gives all kinds of new parents the time to bond with their child.
This time for bonding can be more vital for adopting parents than biological parents because they may not have been involved in the pregnancy at all, which is the biggest period that parents typically create a bond with their child.
Having conversations with employees thinking about adopting can help to make the process more straightforward and provide peace of mind.
Like biological parents, adoptive parents have entitlements to adoption pay as well as leave. The general pay you will be able to offer your employees is 39 weeks, at 90% for 6 weeks and then either 90% or £151.97 a week, whichever is less. So, after 6 weeks, an employee’s entitlement will depend on what their standard salary is.
Keep these figures in mind when you are looking into how much you can offer your employee, but of course, adoption isn’t always straight-forward and this consistent dock in their salary can cause real problems for a family.
Making sure they have access to extra financial support, can help to ease money worries at a time that can already be stressful and come with a lot to figure out.
Accommodations for a parent of a sick child
One experience that can have its bigger challenges is those of a parent of a sick child. Not only do they have to deal with the day-to-day responsibilities of being a parent, but the added stresses and responsibilities that come with caring for a sick child.
A child that is sick, whether terminally or for a certain amount of time, can have rapidly changing needs. The chance of emergencies happening is also higher amongst sick people. Being flexible with the support that you can offer them, whilst difficult, will be greatly appreciated. It will allow them to manage their child’s health without the added worry that their job is suffering.
Any employee with 26 weeks’ service can request flexible working for any reason, provided that they have not made a request within the previous 12 months. Working from home can also make things easier if they have a sick child off school, so looking into how this can be done without putting extra pressure on co-workers can be a huge help.
Now that we’ve looked at some of the main issues for parents within the workplace, let’s explore some of the reasons why it’s important to address these problems. Plus, some of the ways that companies can implement better parent support into their practises.
Facilities within their building
Although a lot of the support that parents will need will be ways to take care of things at home, there may be times that they need support whilst in work.
There is no legal right for parents to bring their child onto work premises, but this could make things easier for parents to complete their work responsibilities but also look after their children. Its up to you to have discussions with employees to figure out what is possible and what the legalities of this are.
Also looking into the health and safety of this is key to making sure that not only is it done, but it’s done safely and ethically for all involved.
Where you are able, add baby changing facilities into your premises and someone that can easily help look after a child. This will be crucial support for single parents and those who might not have a big support network. It will give them the opportunity to take care of their child whilst still fulfilling their work duties, which can give them a higher sense of self worth and confidence because they’re able to manage all their responsibilities.
Striving to improve the conversation
Change begins with conversation about what exactly it is that needs to be improved. If this first step doesn’t happen, then the risk is that the change that occurs doesn’t fulfil the needs for those it’s meant to support.
Whenever your employee announces that they are going to be parents, start the conversations around what they need. Keep these conversations going throughout their time with you, this allows you to keep the support you are giving relevant and appropriate. It will also give you as a people manager the chance to monitor how and why your employee may be acting a certain way or asking for particular support at the time.
Many employees offer a maternity support pack that can help to outline the company’s policies and procedures around parental rights in their specific workplace.
Another conversation that should happen is one amongst you and your workers. As we’ve explored, there are many different experiences of parenthood. There can be stigma held around these experiences, some people think that adoptive parents aren’t real parents for example. Keeping an eye on the ways these views are expressed amongst your employees can help to make sure any parent feels supported at work.
The benefits of improving the situation for employees
Within your role as a people manager, we understand that there is a lot of considerations to be made when making decisions. It would be great to offer your employees the support and freedom they require, but of course there are still business needs to think about and how you can help employees reach their potential
However, there’s no doubt that making some changes and improvements to the workplace and work culture will help support your employees. Let’s have a look at some of the benefits to adding support for parents for your employees and for your company too.
Improved employee retention
Often, employees struggle balancing their work and home responsibilities. This is particularly heightened for parents because of a high load of responsibility. If an employee feels like they are supported within the workplace, they will be less likely to leave their role due to struggling to create a work-life balance.
Throughout your time as a people manager in the company, there will be occasions where employees will feel stressed and burnt out – you have the opportunity to relieve this for them in some way.
As employee retention continues to be at the forefront of managerial priorities, this simple consideration of how you can support parents will be a key part of keeping employees.
Ease worries of new employees
Although its key to offer support to your current employees, it is also crucial to ensure that potential new talent know they will be supported to balance their responsibilities. From the very beginning, when they come in for their interview, make sure that you or the staff interviewing the candidate can confidently have these conversations.
Allowing a new potential employee to ask questions and discuss their needs will give them the chance to figure out how they could best fit their home responsibilities around their work responsibilities. Even if they love the sound of the job and the company is a good fit, there is a possibility that a person could turn down a job if they worry about not being able to balance their responsibilities.
Increased employee satisfaction
Knowing how your employees feel on a general basis can be key to your company’s success.
If you keep an eye on what might be the biggest priorities or worries of your employees, then you can ensure that the employee satisfaction levels are impressive. This is beneficial in a few ways, it allows you to be adaptive and current with your strategies, it is a quick and easy way to show that you care about your employees and it will look good to potential clients or employees.
It’s no secret that being overwhelmed due to juggling responsibilities leads to added stress, even things we enjoy can become a problem if they start to take over.
By creating a support package and processes to help colleagues that are parents, you’re developing an environment where they can concentrate on their work responsibilities whilst knowing that their home life isn’t going to suffer as a consequence.
Another way that stress can be eased is in the event of an emergency situation happening. Of course, emergencies will always be a hard thing to deal with, but by creating a supportive environment at work for the parent, you take can away part of the worry.
Having a structure in place for if they need extended time off or to work flexibly for a while to take care of their loved ones is crucial. It will give them the space, time, and energy to deal with the situation without worrying about their job being affected.
Promotes a better work/life balance
Even those of us that love our jobs need a break and a bit of support sometimes, and without a carefully considered work-life balance, burnout is a real worry. Having high rates of burnout amongst the company is going to have negative impact overall.
So if you’re able to help stop burnout in any way then you’re not only helping the employee but you will be helping out the company’s performance too.
Fairer policies and processes around parenting are great, but how can you support parents even further?
Your employee benefits package is a great way to support your employees outside of work and helping them to create a better work-life balance. Offering ways that an employee can take care of their responsibilities at home and look after the health and wellbeing of their family will have a knock-on effect for how well they perform at work.
But what are some of the employee benefits that can help to make a parent employee’s life easier?
Extra time off available
Having some flexibility when it comes to taking days off can help parents to deal with the unpredictability of parenthood. It’s not fair to offer this to parents specifically so having a holiday trading scheme gives equal opportunity for buying extra days off. It’s also a great benefit for you as an employer too because employees can choose to sell some of their paid time off too. Also, you make savings on National Insurance and salary payments for the time employees take off!
A different way that this can be done is by simply adding in loyalty benefits, so that employees have the ability to earn themselves days off occasionally. Whilst it’s not a big change or offering, a day off here and there can help them to create memories with their children and not miss the bigger moments.
An employee assistance programme is beneficial for any employee and for many situations. However, there is no doubt that for parents, this tool could be crucial. For new parents, the world changes overnight and whilst it is a celebratory time, it is also quite scary and overwhelming.
Whilst taking leave from work in the whole helps to take off some of the load, for some, time with their colleagues can be valuable for their mental health because it is an extended support system. On top of that, any parent has added stress from trying to juggle all of life’s demands.
Also, if a parent suffers from post-partum mental illness, then this can be a great source of advice. Often when we are struggling, it can be easier to talk to people that don’t know us, especially if we are looking for impartial advice or support.
For parents at any stage, having access to a 24/7, confidential support line, can help to ease the worry or loneliness that may be felt whilst dealing with a difficult situation. If you want to support your employees at home as well as in the workplace, one consideration to make is that not everyone has a good or big support system at home, so if you can help create one for them – it can make a big difference.
Health and wellbeing benefits
Within the areas of health and wellbeing, there is a lot to cover. It can be a challenge to provide all of the health and wellbeing support your employees may need. However, if an employee knows that their and their family’s health and wellbeing can be supported, it will ease a lot of their daily worry.
This means that they’re more able to focus on work responsibilities which will of course be beneficial to the company. So, whilst it benefits the employee directly, it will have a knock-on benefit for the company too.
Examples of these benefits are vouchers for routine appointments, i.e., the dentist or opticians, and health assessments that can help to alleviate some of the cost and stress of any assessments that they or their children may need.
In terms of wellbeing, the EAP is a big one but discounted subscriptions and memberships to wellbeing or mental health support groups/resources can be a simple way to help.
We all love a discount and a bargain. However, for families they can be crucial when it comes to buying essential items. Whether that’s the weeks grocery shop or new clothes for the kids.
Some companies can offer discounts for big retailers and entertainment providers, meaning that their employees get access to all their family may need. It can make food shopping, new school uniforms and birthday plans easier to plan without driving up costs.
Whilst childcare vouchers are no longer available, there are still some options when it comes to helping support your employees with childcare. This article breaks down some of the choices that you have.
For some, allowing employees to bring children to work may be an option but of course this isn’t always possible. The best thing to do is evaluate the space and resources you have and think about what you can introduce in a way that doesn’t compromise health and safety.
Christmas is typically a time of fun and celebration, and for parents the added joy of seeing the kids faces when they’re opening presents makes it even more special. However, with presents, food, decorations, and bits to add to the fun, it’s no secret that Christmas can get expensive really fast. Most of the time, we spend the bulk of the cost in November and December, meaning that a lot of money is coming out in quick succession which can do real damage to our finances.
One benefit that can help out is a Christmas saving account where employees can choose to have amounts of their pay taken out and put into this saving account. This helps spread the cost of Christmas for them, making it affordable without substituting any of the fun!
Trying to alleviate the stresses of parenthood for your employees is complex and difficult but we hope that this article has given you some ideas of how you can be supportive. We understand that for you, business needs are also a priority, so we have only made suggestions that won’t cause upheaval within the company.