The news that cabinet minister Kelly O’Dwyer will quit federal politics to focus on family has put the spotlight on how workplaces can better support the needs of parents with young children, or risk losing them altogether.
At a press conference over the weekend, Ms O’Dwyer (pictured with her family) — who joined Federal Parliament in 2009 and in recent years has held ministerial portfolios including revenue and financial services, industrial relations and, most relevant of all, Minister for Women — said that her decision was based on “very personal” reasons.
“If my husband and I want to give ourselves the opportunity, the best opportunity to have a third child, we need to be very realistic,” she said, noting that her two children, Olivia and Edward, will both reach primary school age over the next three years.
Following Ms O’Dwyer’s announcement, Justine Alter and Sarah Cotton — the co-founders of employee consulting firm Transitioning Well — said that there are things employers can do to help retain key staff who are juggling parenthood with work.
“It’s about listening to the needs of what it means to be a working parent in 2019, which is very different from where parents were at 15 years ago, prior to a 24-hour/7-day-a-week world,” Ms Alter said.
“Whilst a blessing and sometimes a curse, we have no choice but to embrace what has come with this change and what it means for flexible working.”
According to the duo, the three primary things employers can do are:
• Offer flexibility: this can come in different forms to meet the needs of the business and the employee, including adjusted start/finish times, work from home capabilities, working a compressed working week or permission to bring children on-site where safe and feasible to do so.
• Make unpaid leave available if and when needed, to help take the pressure off them.
• Boost the capability of managers to negotiate mutually beneficial outcomes with staff.
“Being able to think outside the square… is key,” Ms Alter said.
“There may always be an alternate way of doing something.”
Entrepreneurs have previously shared their tips to juggle running a business with parenting.
Adam Zuchetti is the editor of My Business, and has steered the publication’s editorial direction since early 2016.