With the cost of childcare soaring, more SMEs are introducing family-friendly policies to attract and retain the talent of working parents
Us Brits currently bear the brunt of the highest childcare costs in the UK and it is estimated that we spend more than 40% of the average wage on looking after our little ones. Even part-time nursery costs are stinging the pay packets of working parents who are having to fork out an average of £115.45 for under twos to spend 25 hours a week in nursery and £109.83 for children aged two and over.
The crippling costs of childcare were at the forefront of political agendas during the general election. The Conservative party pledged to double the current allowance of 15 hours free childcare for three-and-four year olds, saving working parents £5000 a year.
As the Tories begin to get the ball rolling in their childcare pledge, employers can show their support to working parents by implementing child-friendly policies. Doing so will not only create loyal and grateful staff but a family-friendly employer can be desirable to working parents and those wishing to have children in the future.
Many employers now offer enhanced maternity pay to retain the talent of working women and, as the shared parental leave legislation begins to take force, enhanced pay for parental leave can support both sexes in the workplace to create a more diverse working culture. Supporting working parents can benefit employers greatly because it helps retain talent and when an employer supports its workers, those employees are more than willing to go the extra mile in the future.
Returning to work after having a child can be an emotional experience for parents but knowing that their offspring are in safe hands will ease minds and ensure focus is on their day-to-day work. More and more employers are taking care of this by providing workplace nurseries or partnering with a nursery to offer discounted childcare to working parents.
Providing childcare vouchers can also greatly support parents by enabling them to sacrifice some of their salary to pay for childcare before tax and National Insurance is deducted. Employers also save on National Insurance contributions by offering workplace nurseries and childcare vouchers.
“Being family-friendly isn’t just a worthy approach – it makes good business sense,” says Jonathan Bond, director of human resources at Pinsent Masons, the international law firm. Pinsent Masons actively gets to know the families of employees by offering Bring Your Child to Work Days throughout the year. “Work can be a source of mystery as ‘that place’ that keeps parents away from home,” says Bond. “The events are offered to all staff; both parents and employees who’d also like to be involved by bringing in other young relatives.”
Pinsent Masons works with Employees Matters to run workshops, seminars and webinars to help bridge any gaps between home and work lives. The events enable employees and their families to become involved in team exercises and also allow staff to form a close-knit connection. “We get excellent feedback from the parents involved, all with their own stories of what their children got from the day,” reveals Bond.
As a Stonewall Diversity Champion, Pinsent Masons strives to support working parents with family friendly policies and incentives including family film nights across its UK offices and advice sessions on a diverse range of parenting topics. By offering support to staff, it has broken down barriers and created opportunities for parents to accomplish a better work-life balance “Working towards a family-friendly culture has brought significant benefits for the firm,” reveals Bond. “It supports our commitment to responsible business.”
Stephen Stott, CEO of Stott and May, an exec search firm, credits the success of his company and loyal staff to the support he shows all of his employees. He is also an advocate of getting to know the families of staff. “I know their partners and the children all know each other,” he says.
As a father of three young children himself, Stott has felt the struggle of being a working parent. When starting his own company, he wanted to enable his employees to have a better work-life balance and has invested heavily into the infrastructure to allow staff to work remotely and flexibly. “A lot of the people had been in the business for years, had families and had the ability to work from home if they wanted to,” explains Stott. He reveals that by allowing employees to work remotely when needed, productivity has increased by more than 30%.
Many of the incentives in Stott’s company are centred on the families of staff including child minders at the Christmas party and weekend breaks for the family at Center Parcs. He holds quarterly events that are attended by every member of staff along with their families. Stott feels that, by creating this environment, his company is one big family.
Showing an interest in an employee’s life outside of work can go a long way and Stott often extends this further by regularly sending staff with young children home, allowing them to spend quality time with their kids rather than just putting them to bed. Stott is happy to pay for a two-week holiday for employees who have been unable to go away for a few years. His staff are more than willing to spend a week or two working remotely in order to give their family a fortnight of R&R. This shows how personal touches from employers can create a positive working environment for all.
Kindhearted employers that go the extra mile to support employees and their individual needs will find themselves with a close-knit unit of staff, and will build a good reputation with those seeking a long-term career with a desirable employer.