With recent research from Deloitte revealing that nearly half (45%) of fathers feel that their employer treats mothers better in the workplace, it’s clear that businesses need to do a lot more to reassure staff of the parental support on offer. For those running smaller businesses, this is even more vital and, if left unattended, can risk losing key employees and damaging the loyalty that staff have towards the business. Jamie Mackenzie, Director at Sodexo Engage advises
Overcoming this issue is not impossible though. There are actually some straightforward methods that companies can use to promote equal opportunities for mothers and fathers, and also keep the wider team on side as well.
Firstly, it’s important to remember that each family has a completely unique set-up; some may share parental responsibilities fifty-fifty, while others may choose to have one person take on the majority of the child-rearing role. Understanding and responding to the individual needs of each employee is therefore vital to ensuring that both mothers and fathers feel supported at work.
This is especially true for parents of new-borns. These mums and dads will be busy working out their new home-life, finding the best split of responsibilities, and dealing with a whole new person in the house. With this in mind, it’s likely that their preferences for different employee benefits or programmes will fluctuate as they find the right balance – sometimes leaning more on the mother, and other times on the father.
It’s therefore important that the business supports all of its employees during this period, whether that means giving practical advice or agreeing to a more flexible work schedule. If this is established from the start, employees will know that parental support is available for both men and women, and will therefore feel more loyal to the business.
Strike a balance
It’s well known that a positive work-life balance is important for all staff, but for parents, this is even more of a priority. When there’s a child in the family, home life can be a diary-juggling challenge that causes stress and demotivation when things aren’t working out. Giving both mothers and fathers the same opportunity to effectively manage their home life around their job is therefore a must. Fortunately, most, if not all businesses, are aware of this issue and making sure employees can be flexible at work.
Some organisations are going a step further by offering things like on-site nurseries or discounted fees for day care to help alleviate the pressure. This way, staff aren’t just able to juggle their work and home life, they can completely integrate the two.
However, despite all these positive initiatives, the challenge comes with making sure both mothers and fathers take full advantages of the policies in place. Whether the company is offering remote working, flexitime or even on-site day care, it’s important to remind both fathers and mothers that these options are available to them. If these benefits aren’t promoted in the business, not only are parents likely to feel demotivated in their role, but it will be a waste of money for the company as well.
A benefit for everyone
But to really ensure both male and female staff feel valued, the company needs to make sure that all employees see the value of these initiatives, whether they are currently parents or not. If staff can see how the company treats new mothers and fathers, they’re more likely to maintain a positive attitude towards how the business treats its people overall.
For example, giving junior members of staff the opportunity to step up during an employee’s maternity or paternity leave will appeal to enthusiastic workers who are keen to showcase their skills and expertise with their managers. Likewise, offering remote working and flexitime to the wider staff pool will make sure that employees continue to engage with the benefit once they have a child.
For more established staff – potentially those that are married or with a long-term partner – seeing the benefit of staying in a company that supports the challenge of having a child and working will improve retention. After all, these employees will feel more inclined to remain in a business they know will adapt to the changing life stages of its staff.
For all these reasons, businesses need to promote their employee benefits with fathers as well as mothers, highlighting the support on offer and encouraging staff to take up these programmes. When it’s done right, the company will be able to highlight its offering to the entire business, keeping current and expectant parents, as well as those years away from having a child, engaged with the organisation and feeling positive about the business.