BRIAN LENEHAN: Family-friendly employment policies compete with salary on candidate wish lists

Family friendly employment policies are now up there with high salaries, attractive pension schemes and other flexible working policies
Family friendly employment policies are now up there with high salaries, attractive pension schemes and other flexible working policies

PARENTAL leave and family support policies have become a prominent part of talent attraction and retention, and highly competitive in terms of best practice.

Indeed in 2019, some 65 per cent of workers surveyed said they prioritise work-life balance over pay and benefits. With plenty of choice out there for employees seeking a career move, remuneration is no longer the deciding factor on candidate wish lists.

In fact, family friendly employment policies are now up there with high salaries, attractive pension schemes and other flexible working policies. What’s more, they are an opportunity for organisations to promote gender equality by encouraging female participation in the workplace and enabling career progression.

Today, there are more mothers in work in the UK than at any point in the last 20 years, and organisations are slowly realising that enhanced maternity and paternity leave, time off in lieu, and shared parental leave will both improve the health and wellbeing of their team and increase their productivity and employer value.

Both legislation and employer practice have evolved in this area in recent years as companies, accelerated by the competition for talent, the pandemic and technological advances, seek to transform their approach to flexible work.

Today’s workforces have valid expectations for family support policies, but what does good enough look like, and what is leading practice?

In 2019, Diageo introduced a parental leave policy for all 4,500 of its UK employees, offering both parents 26 weeks of fully paid leave and the option to take more at a reduced rate. Insurance company Aviva operates a similar policy, available equally to men and women in a bid to promote shared parental responsibility and eradicate career impediments for female staff.

Many others, including small businesses, will no doubt also be establishing policies that go beyond the statutory provisions. These policies are about building confidence across the workforce, avoiding mutual distrust between employer and employee around the topic of family planning, and attracting and retaining talented individuals who wish to build a career with the company over many years while also expanding their family.

As well as setting an organisation apart from the crowd, ensuring mothers and fathers have adequate paid leave for the birth of a child is a priority for economic development and achieving greater gender equality.

Packages that support family life will not only encourage female labour force participation but can help nurture parent-child interactions and influence the healthy development of the child.

In contrast, on-call shifts, work hour volatility, and short notice of work schedules are associated with childcare difficulties and work-life conflicts, meaning both mothers and fathers on these schedules are likely to miss work.

There is no one size fits all approach, but a company culture that encourages openness on the topic is a good place to start. Companies must look internally at the demographic of their workforce and plan their policies accordingly if they wish to lower staff turnover and see long-term, meaningful return on the investments they make in training and development.

For some this might mean family support policies, while for an older workforce it may be pension and retirement focussed. Other factors critical for recruitment and retention include hybrid working, job design, and location of work.

In a continually evolving workplace, it is vital to be inclusive, flexible and people centric. Against a raging war for talent, a family friendly approach can be a valuable tool as the way employees are treated as they become parents will ultimately have a big impact on their loyalty and desire to stay with the organisation in the longer term.

:: Brian Lenehan is HR consultant at Baker Tilly Mooney Moore