With Family Day right around the corner in Canada, it’s an ideal time for companies to review their organization’s benefits and policies for employees with family responsibilities.

Mandatory care benefits and policies for new parents include paid maternity and paternity leave. Beyond the support provided to your team members beyond the initial stages of parenting, does your organization continue to support your people once they make the transition back into the workforce as working parents? No matter your company’s current plan for working parents, it’s a necessity to cultivate a workplace culture that recognizes and supports the needs of your employees and their dual roles in work and in life.

Creating a culture of support around parental leave

Companies need to create and provide a culture of support for working parents throughout the journey from parental leave to working parenthood — and that requires helping all team members change their mindsets towards the parental caregivers within their teams.

In a recent study entitled ‘Expecting More Than a Baby: Closing the Employee Experience Gap for Working Parents’, statistics suggest that there is still hesitation from new parents when it comes to taking advantage of paid leave. While 76 percent of working parents reported having organizational policies that support parental leave, 56 percent admitted to experiencing a disparity between their company’s stated support of taking time off and the responses they encountered when requesting time off.

57 percent of working parents stated they would have treated their parental leave differently had they had support from management, and an alarming 63 percent of new fathers believe that taking extended leave would be detrimental to their careers.

When it comes to parental leave, organizations need to take active steps to communicate to their employees that they have permission to use the leave time they’ve been given without the risk of feeling guilt and being perceived as lacking commitment to the organization.

With half of all employed parents stating that they struggle to keep an interesting or challenging role at work while being a parent, it’s clear that the failure to support working parents in this regard can lead to serious impacts to a company in terms of workplace performance, talent turnover, and business costs. Organizations that value working parents as an integral part of their overall company strategy must invest their support efforts accordingly.

Securing the future of your workforce

Working parenthood is a universal concern for securing the future longevity of your workforce, driving decisions of whether people choose to join or stay in your organization.

It’s important for an organization’s HR to have foresight about parenting by anticipating changes in the workforce and addressing how said changes will be handled. In the eyes of prospective and current employees, how a company treats working parents is an indicator of how they treat their people in general. For example, including information regarding family-related policies during the onboarding process sends a positive signal of the company’s long-term investment in retaining and supporting their people and allows employees to envision building a career within your organization.

The ‘working parent problem’ of work-life balance

Recent studies reveal that for working parents, flexibility with work-life balance outweighs every other career criteria — including salary. For these employees, they strive to be present and productive both at the office and at home.  

Harvard Business Review refers to this navigation of parental work-life balance as “the working parent problem,” or “the challenge of effectively employing and fully unleashing the potential of the folks who are trying to navigate the demands of work and family.”

In Harvard Business Review, Daisy Wademan Dowling, Founder & CEO of Workparent, offers the following supportive solutions to the working parent problem:

  • Demonstrate personal support for working-parent employees in a visible way
  • Define your organization’s working-parent challenge from the front-line employee perspective
  • Engage allies within and outside of the HR department to identify and execute on solutions.
  • Take a comprehensive approach rather than relying on “silver bullet” solution
  • Support and shape grassroots, employee-led solutions, such as peer-to-peer working-parent mentoring and coaching programs or Employee Resource Groups (ERGs)

In short, raising the visibility of working parenthood and your organization’s support for it, from the executive level to the managerial level, through open communication and open collaboration are key methods for implementing a positive workplace culture for working parents.

Forward-thinking organizations don’t just support working parents because they are obliged to — they do so because they know and understand that working parents are a business asset worth investing in.

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