Working parents are a feature of any workplace. In fact, about a quarter of two-parent families who have kids aged four and under are working full time, while 74.7% of couple families with children under 15 have mothers who are employed.
For businesses, supporting working parents is a sure way to keep employees happy, engaged, and productive.
Here are three ways to better support working parents and examples of businesses that are doing this well.
1. Working flexibly – the next stage
The pandemic has changed the workplace immeasurably, and one of the biggest areas has been around flexible work. Employers now have new obligations regarding requests for flexible work under the Fair Work Act.
But beyond their obligations, businesses can do more to help in making flexible work the norm.
For example, financial automation software company Thriday, which employs about 30 people, has put in place a “work anywhere” policy.
Michael Nuciforo, co-founder and chief executive, said it revolved around three core principles: staff can work any time of day, from anywhere, and can control their diary in terms of meetings that they attend.
“We do have an office, but people can work from home full-time – it’s completely up to them. We have no expectations about office attendance, but we have a core group that likes to come in once or twice a week,” he said.
Nuciforo said they decided to implement this policy after surveying and interviewing team members to understand what they were looking for from their employer.
“The number one thing that came out of that was flexibility. As a result of this, we decided to explore different solutions, and we got the team to vote on their preferred. Life leave [an extra five days to attend special events] was another initiative that we put forward that people really loved,” he said.
He explained they decided on these measures after floating different ideas.
“For example, a four-day week was put forward, and while it got some interest, people were not adamant about wanting it,” he explained.
Meanwhile, telcos More and Tangerine have a hybrid working environment and have also put subsidised technology and development into the mix for their approximately 50 staff, according to Andrew Branson, CEO.
“The majority of our staff prefer a hybrid arrangement where they work from the office two days a week and home three days a week,” he explained.
“Most roles also have flexible hours, so if they have important personal events during business hours, they can make up these hours at another time.”
To support flexible working, More and Tangerine also create an easier environment for remote working by providing free internet and mobile plans for everyone – making it easier for them to do their jobs remotely.
With some parents also reporting concerns about missing out on professional development, Branson added that they offer this regularly as another way to support working parents.
My Business Workplace has these documents to assist you with flexible work arrangements:
2. Parental leave: where next?
Parental leave obligations are growing – however, beyond this, businesses can think about how to make working life easier for parents.
Airteam, a software designer and developer employing 20 people, recently put in place a parent support payment. This is available to all new parents and provides a total of $15,000, which employees can receive in either a lump sum or fortnightly instalments over 18 weeks after the birth or adoption of a child.
“This has been a big step for us, but the feedback has been very positive, as it enables parents to take a block of time off when their child arrives,” Laura Zucchetti, Airteam’s head of people and culture, said.
“In addition, we have a supportive work culture that fosters conversations about our families and lives outside of work. We conduct an annual company retrospective to gather employee feedback, which has been overwhelmingly positive about flexible working and new parental payments,” she said.
Zucchetti added that for Airteam, it’s not just the right thing to do – it’s a wise business decision.
“Happy and supported employees are more engaged, productive, and likely to stay with a company for the long term,” she said.
Parental leave measures don’t always have to be financial. Deloitte, for example, provides relief from performance targets for 12 months after parental leave. Another important consideration is supporting a parent who returns from parental leave – such as providing comfortable spaces for breastfeeding and expressing milk in the office.
My Business Workplace has a range of templates to help you with parental leave, including:
Childcare – a big barrier
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, in 2020–21, there were 250,000 women who wanted a job or to work more hours but were unavailable, of whom 61,600 (25%) indicated that caring for children was the main barrier.
In a time when most businesses are still suffering staff shortages, this is well worth thinking about.
While providing subsidised childcare might not be within the realm of many small businesses, there are other ways to help. This includes allowing employees to work days and times when childcare is available to them or being flexible when childcare becomes unavailable – for example, when hundreds of centres had to shut due to COVID-19-related staffing shortages.
And, with government subsidies for childcare being updated regularly, you might want to help employees stay informed.
If you want any more help with this or other aspects of managing your people, make the most of your My Business Workplace subscription.