Supporting working parents has never been so crucial, yet policies and workplaces have not kept up with social change. With the rise of cloud-based technology and self-service employee portals, we have witnessed some revolutionary changes in workplace practices yet, despite these advances, thousands of workers in the UK are being left behind in outdated modes of work, stressing it out in a workplace culture of yesteryear. And this is particularly acute for parents.
Karen Taylor, who is about to launch Parent Cloud told us: “There are so many reasons why I wanted to start Parent Cloud. Having spent a lot of the last year speaking with parents about their experiences and being a mum of two myself, I think there aren’t many who’d disagree that becoming a parent can be really challenging. I definitely found it difficult. The statistics around parental mental health back us up, with over 20% of new Dads and 33% of new Mums experiencing mental health issues. It’s also really clear how many businesses want to improve the way they work with parents – from targeting gender diversity in senior roles to increased flexible working. So building a business that can offer easy, affordable, remote access to the best advice for things like sleep training, depression and returning to work in order to support parents whilst also improving gender diversity at work means a lot to me.”
It is not rocket science that employers who nurture a work-life balance culture within their organisation will reap the rewards of a more loyal, motivated and productive workforce, and the costs of absenteeism, stress and increased staff turnover that result from inflexible workplaces can be avoided.
With the advantages of technology today, it has never been easier to actively promote a programme of flexible working in business; to develop, communicate and educate your entire workforce around a working culture that retains and attracts talent throughout their working life-cycle.
The scale of the problem
Sarah Jackson of Working Families, which publishes The Modern Families Index says:
“There is an expectation among younger couples that there will be equality at home and equality at work: so he is going to be an active father and she is going to be active in the workforce. They are not getting that.”
A first step on the path to achieving this is for employers to ensure that parents and future parents can trust that they can have an adult to adult honest conversation about work and working life without worrying about whether they will be seen as less committed.
Only one in five families say they have a healthy work-life balance with just under half of parents saying that working hours get in the way of family life. Only two percent of eligible employees are taking up Shared Parental Leave leading the government to launch a campaign last year to further promote it. Then consider that around 54,000 women per year in the UK lose their jobs due to maternity discrimination and another 2.6 million mums aren’t currently working, who might want to if they could work around their families and you start to see a clear picture that there’s an opportunity – indeed, a necessity – to better support workers when they become parents and avoid a talent drain.
Policies are only part of the solution
Providing truly flexible employment options is a key part of the Industrial Strategy, the government’s long-term plan to build a Britain fit for the future by helping businesses create better, higher-paying jobs in every part of the UK. But policy is only part of the solution.
Karen again: “Businesses are so clearly aware of the challenges around gender diversity and engaging with parents, but they can find it difficult to implement effective ways to address them. In most organisations the relevant HR policies do exist. The problem is that the workforce just doesn’t know enough about them, they are poorly promoted (if at all) and, in too many cases, the organisational culture simply does not support them. This is not merely an HR issue: it’s an employee engagement and communications issue.
“A lot of employers offer access to Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs), but these seem to be valued more by employers than the employees themselves who recently rated free fruit as having more value to them! EAPs also don’t offer access to the niche advice that parents need. KIT days, office parent groups and buddy systems do go some way towards helping, but our research suggests that new parents are often desperate for personally tailored, easily accessible, good advice on the things that most commonly affect new parents: birth, breastfeeding, nutrition, anxiety and depression, sleep training and returning to work.”
Even in businesses who are making positive strides in getting mums back to work, and offering flexible working arrangements for all parents, there is often little support available to ease them through the transition and even less to encourage them to progress in their careers. Karen explains that: “With Parent Cloud businesses can give support to parents going through their journey from early pregnancy all the way through maternity and returning to work, which will increase engagement and offer a real, tangible benefit to their employees without spending a huge amount of money.”
The breadth of offering and the holistic approach offered by Parent Cloud in supporting parents would suit any business looking to take a creative approach to supporting parents within their workforce and who want to have a positive impact on parental mental health and gender diversity. The technology has been organised to offer easy, quick remote access to face-to-face consultations with a variety of specialists. Asked how it will work, Karen explained:
“Our services will be available from June 2019 on both a B2C and a B2B basis. Employees will be able to book appointments online directly in specialists’ diaries with a variety of daytime, evening and weekend appointments. In the future this may become an app or an online portal linked with corporate intranets, but initially the most important thing for me is making sure that the quality of support and advice is the best out there.”
For now, businesses seem to agree that this is a service that can actually address issues which are firmly on their agenda and they can really see how something like Parent Cloud will be able to have a positive impact on their workplace culture and ultimately, their bottom line.”
By Alison Boothby