How employers can help working parents beyond flexible working

by ParentalChoice
in Working Mum, Working Dad, Work life balance, Flexible working, Family Friendly Companies, Employee Benefits
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Real Business magazine has published an article which tackles the issue of flexible working for parents.  It addresses the three main issues faced by working parents:  the cost of childcare, flexible working and impostor syndrome.  It’s a very interesting read and has challenged businesses to demonstrate how they support working parents, the challenges faced and leveraging family-friendly policies.

We felt this was a great opportunity to talk about Parental Choice and what we are doing, so here, Sarah-Jane Butler, Founder and CEO gives you the low-down.

How has your business helped to support working parents?

Parental Choice was created with the main aim of helping to support working parents.  I founded the business following my own experience of returning to work after my first daughter was born. It wasn’t just the lack of support internally but more importantly, considering I was expected to spend so much time at work, the lack of support outside work that frustrated me.

I found the lack of credible, impartial advice disappointing and saw a gap in the market for helping working parents find the right kind of childcare that was right for their individual circumstances to enable them to make the right decision for their families and their careers.

Eight years later we have helped hundreds of clients with advice on all elements of childcare.  Parental Choice advises on the best options to allow parents to continue their careers and carries out searches within a parent’s specified local area for nurseries, childminders or schools or helps secure in-home help in the shape of nannies, au-pairs and housekeepers.

As well as helping working families directly, Parental Choice also work with businesses who have identified the need to provide support in the workplace which will help balance life at home.

From the start, building on my own experiences, I identified that for companies to get the most out of their employees who are working parents, they needed to recognise the struggles that many parents face when returning to work after starting a family. Employees need to understand that what happens outside of work has an enormous impact on whether an employee stays in work. If a working parent doesn’t feel recognised or understood, then they will look elsewhere for an employer that does understand. Its not rocket science.

Our parental wellbeing programmes include childcare advice clinics, a programme of well-being lunch and learn sessions delivered by a panel of experts dealing with issues from child self-esteem to separation and divorce to managing work/life balance, parenting-focused newsletters and discounted childcare searches. Our forward thinking clients include L’Oreal, Euromoney, White & Case, Northern Trust and more in financial services and legal sectors. We provide our services across EMEA and APAC.

What are the challenges you’ve faced supporting parents in the workplace?

I regularly meet with businesses who are looking in some way to provide benefits to working parents.  The biggest challenge I face in these conversations is convincing business leaders that our service is a ‘need to have’ and not a ‘nice to have’.  I also often face blank looks from decision makers who are not parents themselves and don’t ‘get’ how beneficial our services are to working parents. Whilst coaching and back-up care are great and definitely have their place, these all focus on an employee within the workplace. An employee has to know they are supported when life’s issues, outside work, have an impact on the way they are working.

In these situations, I truly believe businesses need to get a better understanding of the needs of their working parents and buy-in to services which provide a direct benefit to them.

All the recent research in this field, from LinkedIn to Working Families indicate that helping with childcare and recognising parents in the workplace will go a long way in retaining talent, to create a better motivated workforce and help with gender balance.

The final challenge relates to flexibility in relation to working parents.  Whilst we can create the best possible long-term, dependable care plan for a parent’s situation, childcare is not massively flexible.  Parents are having to regularly request flexibility from their employers to enable them to be there to collect/drop off their children.  This process in itself can be stressful and add to the burden and mental load of returning to work when facing an inflexible employer. The more flexible an employer can be when facing childcare which can be rigid in its structure, the better.

How do you leverage your family policies and flexible working practices to attract candidates and retain top talent?

Parental Choice is an SME and flexible working to work around childcare is a day one right for all. When I set up the company I wanted to ensure that I was family-friendly.  I needed to ensure as a boss that I practise what I preach!

Nearly every employee in the business is a parent and our office hours fit into school hours, the teams work around parental commitments and appointments and we often have children in the office during holidays, Inset days or if they are poorly. We all understand that life comes first and I fully appreciate the commitment and loyalty that I gain from understanding the needs of my team.

My teams consist of highly experienced individuals who, for the sake of their families or personal situations do not want to work full time, or commute into the city.  I would not have been able to attract them if I was not willing to take a family-friendly view of our working practices.

In terms of the work we do with our clients I am confident the services we offer assist them in retaining their female talent and as a benefit makes them look attractive to potential employees.

Sarah-Jane Butler, Founder & CEO

Parental Choice  |  |  020 8979 6453

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