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3 ways to support parents at work

In an era when it is becoming the norm for both parents to work, many employers offer generous parental leave packages to attract and retain talent. But what happens when the leave ends?

Being a parent is a full-time job–which can make things challenging for parents who work full-time and those who manage them. But if you give them the proper support, having parents on your team can bring significant benefits.

A SkillsNow poll of 500 working mothers reveals that (60 per cent) say they have more patience and empathy at work after becoming parents. Many say their performance and job satisfaction have improved – but only if employers provide the level of support and right working conditions.

Unfortunately, that may not always happen, with 43 per cent of working mothers feeling they have experienced discrimination, and 39 per cent say they have not been offered the training and development they need to progress.

So, what can managers do to support new parents in 2022? Focus on these three priorities:

1. Provide support and training/development opportunities

The assumption that working parents will lose their ambition after having a baby is wrong. Two out of three want more training and development after they return from parental leave and are often not offered it. As a manager, when any returning worker shows a desire to learn and progress, you should meet it with similar positivity.

As the pace of change continues to accelerate, training needs to be seen as a must-have, not a nice-to-have. For parents, remote and digital training options must be offered to be truly inclusive.

2. Combat workplace discrimination

With 43 per cent of working mothers saying they experienced discrimination at work and 37 per cent of women suffering a diagnosed mental health condition after becoming parents, fighting discrimination is vital. The most common misconception is that because an employee becomes a parent, their attention is divided between work and home, so they become less committed to the workplace. While they have more responsibility at home, this does not change their commitment to work and, in some cases, will work harder to provide for their family.

The best way to beat discrimination in the workplace toward new parents is to raise awareness of parents' needs and the value they bring to the workplace. It is also important to offer various support options, as not every new parent needs or wants the same treatment.

3. Make use of productivity

The survey showed that many employees have more patience and empathy, perform better, and enjoy work more after becoming parents – but only given the right working conditions. Giving them the right working conditions is essential for business performance.

Communication is important; sitting down and devising a work schedule with the new mother or father will benefit them and the business. This may seem like a simple exercise, but it demonstrates the business's commitment to finding solutions and keeping them included.

Offering flexible options such as working from home, flexi-time or hybrid working is now commonplace; consider going further and offering subsidies on childcare and healthcare provision, especially with the cost-of-living crisis hitting families hard.

It is also essential to notice and appreciate new parents' performance improvements. This will not only encourage them but also inspire their peers; keeping parents happy at work can boost the morale of your whole team.

PwC is trialling another more experimental approach. Their Mentor Moms program pairs new mothers with other working mums in the business, giving them someone to confide in about the unique difficulties of balancing work and a new child. Returning parents are also given the option of skipping their annual review after returning, which allows them to worry less about performance than simply getting their work done. "The notion of comparing someone working a full year to someone who was out of the business for a large proportion is not a comparison.

For many, the Covid lockdown made it clear that working parents were superheroes. But even superheroes need help sometimes, so if they have not checked in recently, it's always worth a quick catch-up.

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