Four benefits SMEs can offer working parents

Close up of a young family using a laptop in the morning , while the father is talking on the phone

By Hazel Walker, employee benefits services expert, Blackhawk Network Extras

The UK workforce is made up of a significant percentage of working parents, according to the Office for National Statistics – 75% of mothers are employed and 92% of fathers are employed. However, in 2022 alone, 1.75 million people left their jobs to care for their families and almost 90% of working parents took time off work to care for their ill children, which highlights the struggle to balance work and parenting.

As we face rising levels of uncertainty due to cost-of-living increases, the balance between family income and the ability to afford family responsibilities, such as childcare costs, is a continual challenge. From flexible hours to financial assistance, here are some of the ways in which employers can support working parents and foster a working-parent-friendly culture.

Roughly two-fifths of employees in the UK believe that their employers don’t do enough to support working parents, according to a study by LinkedIn. To address this, employers should consider the following parental assistance to help ensure staff feel valued and heard and remain loyal to the company.

Introduce flexible working

Numerous studies have suggested that flexible working is the most desired benefit for working parents.

That’s why offering flexibility from the traditional 9 to 5 working structure with reduced hours, flexible working hours, part-time work, working from home, and job shares is a great way to support working parents.

Plus, flexible work arrangements can boost job satisfaction, commitment, and support mental health issues and stress, according to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD).

Offer opportunities for career development

When it comes to career growth, one survey found that 26% of working parents feel that they do not receive the same level of career opportunities as non-parents. In particular, UNICEF highlighted that women, who often assume more caring responsibilities than men, should not be penalised for doing so.

To counter this, employers should ensure that all of their policies are family-friendly, open to all workers, and flexible enough to fit around childcare responsibilities.

Support employee wellbeing

Taking on the dual roles of employee and caregiver can be tiring. That’s why employers should prioritise their employees’ wellbeing.

Whether it’s offering flexible working options, self-care days, birthday days off, or permitted leave for a child’s school play or sports day, will make a huge difference to your parent employee. Also, office-based classes and workshops with health professionals, to support physical and mental wellbeing, are important ways to consider improving a healthy work-life balance, whilst saving family time at home by doing these activities at work.

Not only will this support working parents but promoting wellbeing can also boost employee engagement and organisational performance.

Provide childcare support

The top reason for staying in a role is ‘help with the cost of living’, according to the Modern Families Index 2023.

For many working parents, the cost of childcare – £7,000+ a year on average for part-time care for a child under two – can outweigh their income. Some families with children end up paying to go to work, according to the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR).

One way employers can help to reduce the financial burden is through a childcare voucher scheme, such as care-4.

Designed to help working parents save on the cost of childcare with childcare vouchers, care-4 is a tax-efficient, salary sacrifice workplace benefit that can help:

  • Working parents save up to £933 a year on childcare costs for children aged 0 up to 16 years
  • Employers improve employee financial wellbeing by cutting the cost of childcare for working parents.

What’s more, employees also receive access to a confidential childcare helpline, summer club discounts, and an emergency childcare finder. Find out more, including eligibility criteria and how to sign up, here.

Blackhawk Network Extras