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Creating and supporting a parent and carer-friendly workplace

Creating and supporting a parent and carer-friendly workplace

 30th July 2020

The coronavirus pandemic has resulted in many of those who were used to working in an office environment having to quickly adjust to a new way of working – whether that is working from home or a workplace which now needs to adhere to social distancing rules

Previously, the prospect of working from home full time seemed ideal. With most of us thinking it would relieve some of the everyday stresses juggling work and home life brought. But with school closures and no childcare, parents are having to juggle work with their childcare and home-schooling responsibilities and it is not easy!

Current issues parents and carers are facing

The coronavirus pandemic has resulted in many of those who were used to working in an office environment having to quickly adjust to a new way of working – whether that is working from home or a workplace which now needs to adhere to social distancing rules

Previously, the prospect of working from home full time seemed ideal. With most of us thinking it would relieve some of the everyday stresses juggling work and home life brought. But with school closures and no childcare, parents are having to juggle work with their childcare and home-schooling responsibilities and it is not easy!

Employers are being encouraged to be flexible and accommodating in their approach in these unprecedented times in order to support the challenges working parents face but also encourage a more relaxed approach to homeworking that in turn will benefit their business.

Another area for employers to consider is those that identify as sole/key carers for family members/friends. Carers keep families together, contribute immeasurably to society, and save the economy a substantial amount of money. However, whilst caring can be rewarding, it can also be incredibly stressful and isolating if carers don’t get the support they need. This is especially true during a global pandemic.

Life can be challenging for working carers in the UK. According to the CIPD, almost a third of working carers fail to discuss their caring responsibilities with their employer – because they believe nothing will change in terms of support they receive. A quarter were also considering giving up their job entirely because of the difficulty they experienced in combining work and care. This too can be said for parents who feel employers may not understand or account for the pressures of balancing both work and parenting life.

Why should I make my business parent and carer-friendly?

Being accommodating to carers needs will reduce stress levels, absenteeism and the costs associated with sick leave. Employees will be more motivated and loyal to the business, leading to increases in productivity and performance. And providing proper support for working parents and carers will ultimately enhance your reputation and help you to attract and retain staff.

How to create a parent and carer-friendly workplace

There are a number of steps you can take to create a supportive, open and inclusive workforce for parents and carers. Below, we’ll discuss some of the ways in which you can do this.

Have a clear definition of what it means to be a carer

Clearly defining what it means to be a carer is important; many people don’t identify themselves as carers and may not think to raise the issue with their line manager in the first place. Others might self-identify as carers but might not feel comfortable sharing that information with their employers. Identifying carers and understanding their circumstances is a helpful starting point for employers looking to support working carers.

You might seek to do this by implementing the following:

  • A ‘carers’ register’, where employees who identify as carers can access carers’ leave and other benefits.
  • A voluntary carers’ passport scheme, where employees detail their individual needs and working arrangements.
  • A process to identify carers through staff inductions, appraisals or employee surveys.
  • Carer role models who are willing to talk about their experiences, break the stigma and encourage others to speak out and get support.
  • A carers policy, drawn up by your HR department, to outline specific support available to careers

Introduce flexible working to support parents and carers

Flexible working can be a great support to working parents and carers struggling to juggle work and home life commitments. Responsibilities can be sudden and unpredictable, so it’s important to think about how to provide different options of flexible working. In fact, flexible working is beneficial to all employees, so employers should take steps to create flexible working cultures across their organisation.

Hire flexibly wherever possible. Offering a job on a flexible basis increases the talent pool, helps to retain staff and saves on sickness absence. Use the CIPD’s flexible hiring guidance to think through how a role can be done flexibly from the start.

Try to ensure that job requirements are properly aligned to the flexible working pattern, and vice versa. You might want to assess:

  • Time – how many hours are needed to carry out the job? Is this a full-time role, a more than full-time role or a part-time one?
  • Location – where do the activities need to be carried out? Can an employee carry out their duties from home on a regular basis?
  • When – when do specific activities need to be completed by.

Provide additional leave

Providing additional paid leave would ease some of the financial burden that parents and carers often face and improve their wellbeing. If you can’t give paid time off currently, try to limit the effect on pay wherever possible, such as agreeing to make up time another day.

Provide time off for emergencies

Employers are required by law to give a reasonable amount of time off for sudden or unexpected emergencies involving a dependant. There is no set amount of time, as it depends on the situation. Although this time off doesn’t have to be paid, many employers do pay to ease financial worries.

You might also want to consider offering parents and carers a career break – or sabbatical – so they can take extended time out of their role. For those who care for minors, you could also encourage staff to take parental leave. By law, employees are entitled to take 18 weeks of parental leave per child, up until the child’s 18th birthday. However, this is usually unpaid.

Promote an open culture

It’s important that managers promote an open culture and hold regular one-to-one conversations with team members. Managers should always ask their employees about their wellbeing, workload and concerns as part of any conversations about their objectives and performance. This will give individuals the opportunity to raise any issues they’d like to discuss beyond work matters. Having a supportive manager will enable staff to feel that they can continue to work while fulfilling their home commitments and encourage employees to come forward and let their manager know that they’re a carer or parent that may need some support and flexibility.

Provide training for people managers to empower employees

People manager training is especially important in ensuring that an organisation is treating employees fairly across all departments and areas, and in providing a consistent approach when a manager leaves and is replaced by someone new. Training can help managers to be empathetic and understanding of the challenges working parent and carers face – as well as some of the workplace solutions that could ease those challenges. Don’t forget that managers may have caring responsibilities themselves.

COVID-19 will likely have impacted on working parents and carers in a number of different ways. What is often an already stressful and demanding role is likely to have become even more so with the continued impact of the virus on our society. It’s important that as an organisation, you are aware of these concerns, and are supportive and flexible.

Our Leading Well team can support your organisation and leaders to become more resilient and supportive. We can provide your business with a unique wellbeing audit and comprehensive action plan to identify your wellbeing priorities and goals as well as benchmark your progress. Find out more today.