Tips for small businesses: accommodating working parents

Coping with work and kids

Running a business is a rewarding yet challenging experience for many people. However, one of the most critical aspects of ensuring success in the long-term is creating a productive and balanced environment for employees, especially working parents. As workforces become more diverse in talent and personal circumstances, it’s essential to consider the logistics and requirements for those that contribute to making the magic happen.

Statistically, working parents are one of the groups of employees that find it more difficult to plan their other commitments around their working day, as well as focus their mind in the workplace compared to their counterparts. This is often due to juggling family life with a happy work balance. More parents, including single-parent families, are returning to work as a necessity due to the cost of childcare and general commitments. This creates a requirement in the workplace to accommodate some new and inclusive practices. These will need to enable working parents to fully utilise the benefits of employment, while having sufficient quality time with their family.

Sharlene Barnes is an education technologist based out of Kaikoura, New Zealand. She is the founder of Skool Loop, the free parent-teacher communication app being used by over 700 schools in New Zealand and Australia. Sharlene developed Skool Loop in response to her own struggles with communicating with her child’s school as a working parent.

She believes it’s important to cater to the needs of your employees, to best support them in their work-life balance, which is why she offers flexible working hours (from 9am-3pm) to allow for school drop off and pick up times. She also offers the option to work from home if an employees’ child is home sick for the day. Sharlene has also just announced that she will be offering child minding services to her employees for the coming school holidays, to help support parents in their availability to work over the holiday period.

Dr Lori Whatley, a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, says: “It is important to accommodate parents in order to keep a stable workforce, especially in a tight job market. Helping employees that are parents lowers stress levels for the employee, and this results in better work production. Having a family friendly workplace also reduces work/family conflict, which decreases occupational conflicts, work stress, and related health issues.”

“Smaller businesses often find it challenging to cater to individual needs when budgets are already tight. By taking a look at the benefits and ways to implement a better culture for all staff, you will help to boost employee retention and ensure your business has the best talent in the industry.” – Debbie Aurelius, Peppermint Fish

Benefits of supporting employees

Without a productive workforce behind it, your business would lose revenue as it struggles to maintain its daily functions at sufficient levels. Some companies have experienced the effects of low motivation and disruption to regular trading from disgruntled employees, and minimising the risks involved with unhappy employees will keep everyone on the same page. However, ensuring staff are content in their job doesn’t in fact always revolve around pay. In fact, for many working parents, support in other ways makes working beneficial to both employees and employers.

Support for your workforce can include everything from simple concessions (such as allowing staff ad-hoc time off for family occasions like school plays and sports days), to larger accommodations, such as flexible working hours. By providing provisions for working parents, you can improve your company’s public image as one of that that cares about their employees, as well as boost staff retention. It can help to build a respectful and productive workforce without losing talented workers due to a poor work/life balance.

Parents need support in the workplaceImplementing clear maternity and paternity policies

Maternity and paternity policies in both small and larger organisations have historically been an area that employees have found difficult to understand. These internal questions have to lead to queries over pay, holiday entitlement, and sometimes issues with returning to work. Due to the unclear policies in some companies, this has led to uncertainty over universal maternity and paternity elements, and in some cases, this can lead to employees feeling apprehensive about requesting information.

To ensure your business is conforming to regulations surrounding maternity and paternity leave, it is vital to have clear policies in place to put your staff at ease. For smaller organisations, this is particularly important, as this is commonly one of the sectors that don’t iron out the details and leave themselves exposed to confusion. It is also crucial to have a nominated point of contact for HR queries, as many small companies do not have the capacity to have a full-time human resources advocate. If this is the case, this person should be knowledgeable of legal and regulative procedures. This will ensure they communicate the right information and offer guidance if there are any queries.

Setting out a clear and concise policy in your company handbook can help to highlight employee’s rights from the outset. Current and potential staff will feel more confident if they know what to expect in this situation. They will feel satisfied that their welfare and rights are accommodated during this process.

How additional benefits can help working parents

As work/life balance becomes ever-more crucial for employees especially working parents, additional company benefits can often attract talent to your company and help to improve employee retention. Popular additions are gym memberships, flexible working, paid sick leave, and subsidised or complimentary food. You could also form collaborations with other organisations to offer discounts to employees. These can help to lower not only the cost of everyday living for workers, but also create an environment where people feel valued for their contribution.

Additionally, when it comes to implementing benefits such as remote and flexible working, it is important to ensure that this is lead from the front. If senior staff are seen to be using the advantages of flexible working, for example, then this is filtered down the business, and less senior members of the team will feel happy to use them also.

Working parents make up a significant percentage of the workforce. By making both small and more significant provisions in the workplace, this can help your business retain the best talent and offers a supportive environment for every employee.

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