How to support parents back to work – and why that’s good for your bottom line

How to support parents back to work – and why that’s good for your bottom line
Yuliana Topazly
In Go Mum

Businesses are more concerned about retaining and developing staff in the next six months than they are of the potential impact of Brexit -that’s according to a recent poll of over 3,000 senior HR professionals carried out by Alexander Mann Solutions.

The results of the poll demonstrate clearly why encouraging women back to work after maternity leave and being able to offer flexible working options and support services is now an important way to retain talent within an organization.

Research by PriceWaterHouseCooper (PwC) revealed that around 427,000 female professionals, directors, engineers, scientists, researchers, doctors, lawyers, and accountants, who were on a career break, wanted to return to the workforce in the future. Yet, three in five professional women are more likely to return into lower-skilled or lower-paid roles, experiencing an immediate earnings reduction of up to a third of their former pay level.

This will cost the UK economy of £1.7 billion – based on the multiplier effect of the reduced earnings and spending power of these women. Many were taking these lower-skilled roles based on recruitment biases against CV gaps and the lack of flexible or part-time opportunities in qualified roles. Over 50% women said that they are prepared to work more hours if flexible work arrangements were available to them.

Then there is the stigma attached to women who do return to work after a maternity break; a belief that they are not fully committed to work, especially if they are in a managerial position. It’s believed, by some, that they cannot keep up with the workload and the long hours culture that exists in many organisations.  This clearly isn’t true. Everyone has commitments outside the workplace – yet employers don’t question our commitment if it’s not childcare related.

So, how can employers encourage and support mothers back into the work place?

Although returning mothers may need different support to other employees, they bring with them a wealth of experience. So, making a few changes is a more cost-effective solution than recruiting new staff who need training and time to get up to speed.

Based on my experience helping both returning mothers and employers, here are the six changes I suggest:

  1. Flexibility: Working parents need flexibility; for example, remote or flexible work arrangements, job-sharing, staggered hours etc. Many returning women often have to combine work with ongoing caring commitments, which can only be achieved if they are offered flexible working arrangements.

However according to a PwC report the opportunities are constrained by the lack of flexible or part-time roles available for higher-skilled jobs. A 2015 survey by Timewise shows that only 6% of advertised roles with a salary of over £20,000 are available on a flexible basis. For jobs with a salary of over £100,000, the figure is even lower; just 2%.

  1. Good Employer Charter: In the modern world of work, organisations can also showcase the support they offer to their employees by applying to be part of the Good Employer Charter (now available in most boroughs). A big part of this is about diversity, inequality and offering flexible work arrangements. Recently the Mayor of London called on all employers to sign up to his Healthy Workplace Charter, which provides businesses with a range of tools to support staff health and wellbeing.
  1. Mindfulness: Set-up regular sessions on mindfulness and encourage working parents to develop ways to stay calm and avoid feeling overwhelmed, especially when parenthood gets really hard. It is something parents can practice a few minutes each day at home, at work or during their commute – and it will make a huge difference. There are several benefits to mindfulness, Laura Callisenfrom Working Mothers says becoming more mindful improves your ability to concentrate, it also helps you to approach things with more acceptance and objectivity, which will help to decrease stress levels. 

Employers can facilitate training sessions to help employees use this technique and can offer a relaxing environment for employees to practice this technique for 20 minutes each day.

  1. Support Schemes: Introduce a buddy scheme in the workplace offering support for parents by parents. Foster peer to peer learning. When working parents need advice or motivation, they turn to the real experts; their colleagues, working parents, people they trust. If your company does not already have a buddy scheme, consider setting one up.   Peer to peer support interventions provide a support network, and the opportunity to access knowledge and resources.

Organisations like BuddyWith can help you set up and facilitate the process of peer to peer matching, running a support networks and providing access to resources working parents in your organisation may need.

  1. Communication: Be considerate when sending communication, use headers reflecting urgency, e.g. ‘Not urgent’; ‘For Monday’; ‘FYI Only’; ‘Urgent!’. This simple technique can help working parents (and all employees!) get through what needs to be done and prioritise their workload accordingly.
  1. Staff Management: Employees need to be managed well, offered the right working conditions and to see that their employer is committed to improving the work/life balance for their workforce.

Companies should adopt new approaches and offer advice and support to their working parents. There is lots of help available, for example, buddywith.org.uk provides access to resources to help organisations support their working parents.

The world of work is changing; how we do it, where we do it, and the way we do it. 98% of working parents say they’ve experienced burnout. And 63% of parents who are managers are worried about the impact their working hours have on relationships with their children.

Some of the larger companies think that providing more leave is the key to retaining the talent, especially for working parents, but to retain talent today, employers are going to have to do more than just offer a few extra days off.

Often employees don’t know what exists or how to access resources available to them, so be sure to advertise widely what you have on offer, what’s already in place and any new initiatives that are launched.

Yes, there is extra work involved in helping parents return to work but with a little effort you can both attract and retain experienced, talented staff – which will have a direct impact on your bottom line.

Sources:

  • Alexander Mann Solutions Survey (http://smallbusiness.co.uk/firms-retaining-staff-impact-brexit-2537530/)
  • PriceWaterHouseCooper (https://www.pwc.co.uk/services/economics-policy/insights/women-returners.html)
  • Working parents say they’ve experienced burnout (http://www.prnewswire.com/news releases/new-study-of-modern-families-and-managers-working-parent-burnout-costing-employers-300155840.html)
  • Working hours have on relationships with their children (www.bitc.org.uk)
  • Support staff health and wellbeing (https://www.london.gov.uk/what-we-do/health/healthy-workplace-charter)
Yuliana Topazly

About Yuliana Topazly

Yuliana Topazly is founder of BuddyWith.org.uk – a supportive community of parents and experts who are there to help each other, offer advice, and share experiences

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