Shared Parental Leave. Flexible Working. Family-friendly. These are all phrases that get said a lot in the workplace but what do they really mean for you as an employer and how do you go about dealing with the changes? Well, the starting point is really to understand why employers want to and should be seen as family-friendly. The reasons are pretty simple!

Employers have finally figured out that in these days of more flexible working you don’t have to do too much to get more out of your working parents. Be a bit “nicer” to any mothers or fathers in the business who happen to have children and you’ll end up with happier and harder working employees.

Although you might not have the latest phone or tablet that doesn’t mean that the rest of your workforce don’t. With the rise of technology, flexible working is incredibly easy. It’s possible to have a conference call and send an e-mail from the other side of the world, or a bit closer to home at the school gates. Encourage remote meetings by providing work phones and making sure everyone knows how to use Skype and Facetime for video conferences and interviews. Flexible working isn’t about work patterns; does the job really need someone full time? Break down a role to 30 hours a week on flexible working and it could suffice.

There are, of course, lots of other, practical ways that employers can help working parents. Arguably the most stressful time for families is when childcare breaks down (think of those annoying head louse that means the nursery closes its doors). There are some fantastic emergency childcare schemes out there (www.emergencychildcare.co.uk). Most forward thinking directors and managers would be happy for the business to pick up the cost if there was an important work deadline that gets hit as a result.

Prove to your employees that you are a family-friendly boss by arranging a lunchtime seminar from a work-life balance expert, arrange some refreshments and convince some senior (preferably male) employees to attend and talk about the issues raised afterwards. Make sure that there is a proper process in place to keep in touch with anyone who happens to be off on maternity leave. Be sensitive to your staff’s ever-changing personal lives. The longer an employee remains at a company the more likely they are going to come across personal difficulties where they’re going to need support. Respect this, talk it through with them and show that you’re a caring company that values them. Don’t pile on the stress if they’re going through an already stressful situation.

In the US they have taken family-friendly to a whole new level.  Over there it might include extra tuition to get John Junior into his favourite Ivy League College or even, I kid you not, some dog counselling to make sure your favourite pooch doesn’t interrupt your ability to work!  My guess is we’re still about five years away from employer-sponsored pet-care in the UK but we’re heading that way.

Ben BlackBen Black is Managing Director of My Family Care (www.myfamilycare.co.uk) which provides childcare support to employers at businesses such as P&G, Barclays, KPMG, Deloitte, and IBM. He is one of the founding members of Tinies which has 20 nurseries and crèches under management and 30 childcare agencies.

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