Parenting is often described as a juggling act and never has this been more true than over the past year. With offices and schools closed for weeks on end, many parents found themselves having to work from home whilst simultaneously home-schooling their children. It’s no wonder so many felt burnt out by the time the schools reopened.
So what lessons can we learn from all this? The Occupational Healthcare experts at YourGP believe the pandemic should serve as a wakeup call to employers to be more supportive of parents in the workplace. Afterall, happier, more relaxed, parents will not just have a more fulfilled homelife, they’re also more likely to be more productive at work too. Here are their top five suggestions of how to make that happen.
- Educate employees on their rights: Inductions, company handbooks, staff workshops and newsletters are all great ways communicating with your employees and informing them of their rights. The rules around maternity and paternity leave, unpaid parental leave, and time off for dependants, for example, should be made clear to staff members and they should be openly encouraged to make full use of these protected rights if and when it is necessary.
- Be flexible: Giving employees the option of flexi-time or compressed hours can be an empowering way of enabling your staff to find the right work / life balance. Being open to the idea of them working from home, even for just some of their contracted hours can also be a huge help. Similarly, it’s important to recognise that last minute emergencies may arise, a child may get sick and need collected from school ASAP, for example. In these cases, it’s always best to try to be as understanding, accommodating, and flexible as possible.
- Treat all employees fairly and equally: Many parents – historically particularly mothers – choose to return to the workplace on a part-time basis after the birth of a child. Sadly however, doing so has left many feeling like they’re less likely to get promoted and progress in their career, compared to those working full-time. It is important for employers to recognise this negative perception and to create a level playing field for all. Being open to the possibility of a job share is one way of doing this.
- Provide supportive childcare options: Whilst it is not possible at all workplaces, many employees benefit hugely from the Workplace Nurseries Scheme and the on-site childcare provided. Not only does it save parents the time and hassle of commuting to and from a childcare setting to work, it also gives them peace of mind that their child is close by so they can check in with them when needed throughout the working day. Alternative suggestions include the Childcare Voucher Scheme which helps parents save up to £1,800 per year on their childcare bill. This can make all the difference to some parents by easing some of the financial pressure of childcare.
- Be open and approachable: One of the simplest ways to support working parents is just to listen to them. Give them the time and space to speak openly about any problems in the workplace and at home and acknowledge the pressure they may be feeling.
If you would like to discuss further ways you can support parents in the workplace, get in touch with YourGP’s team of Occupational Health specialists on 0131 225 5656 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.