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How employers can help parents balance childcare and work

It may not be a surprise to know that as many as two thirds of parents today have declined an opportunity to work due to a lack of childcare, according to a recent report from Bubble.  

Being a working parent can be tricky and challenging, trying to balance family commitments with work demands. In fact, the report also shows, balancing the two has caused nearly 7 in 10 parents (67%) to consider quitting their jobs. 

The Bubble report also revealed that a concerning 68% of parents confess to have declined additional work or not applied for a higher paid job, despite the cost-of-living pressures, all because they can’t find flexible, cost-effective, or available childcare to match. A lack of childcare can see families with young children losing out on an annual income of as much as £15,000. 

Although many companies have already begun to consider how they might reduce the stress and financial burdens faced by working parents, there is always more that an employer can do. Here’s our top tips:  

Increase paid leave 

Regardless of how long they have been employed by you, new mothers are entitled to a 52-week maternity leave. Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) is also available to those who have the required amount of service for up to 39 weeks. During this time, the first six weeks of maternity leave are paid at 90% of the average weekly wage, followed by 33 weeks at £156.66 or 90% of the average weekly wage (whichever is less). The 13 additional weeks are unpaid. 

Further to this, almost two thirds of UK organisations offer Enhanced Maternity Pay (EMP) above the SMP. A great way to support new mothers is to offer a higher rate of maternity pay for a longer period of time, if it’s financially feasible for your company. 

Review your benefits package 

If it’s not possible to offer a new parent a pay rise then there are alternative ways to support them which you could consider including childcare vouchers, private health insurance, and employee assistance programmes (EAPs).  

Even little benefits, like informing parents about employee discount programmes to save money on expenses like weekly shopping, can be beneficial in easing financial stress. 

Be more flexible 

When parents are juggling childcare and employment, offering various forms of flexible working is a great approach to support them. 

Having open conversations with employees is a good way to know what they need to support them. Your employees will feel valued and supported by discussing compromises that benefit each party, such as starting and ending an hour early to coincide with nursery pickup timings. 

Allowing a parent to take time out of their working day to support their child, whether that be a parents evening, attending a school play or an afterschool activity, can only increase their respect and value for you as an employer and drive them to perform better at work.    

Encourage or welcome applications for Shared Parental Leave (SPL) 

In 2015 the Government implemented a rather unknown scheme called Shared Parental Leave. This allows parents to share up to 50 weeks of leave and up to 37 weeks of income between them. 

If your organisation does not already actively offer this, it may be something you should consider implementing in the future. Encouraging parents to take leave and flexible pay (within a year of the baby’s birth) can benefit both new parents and employers. 

Make it simpler for your working parents to find childcare 

Do your own research and provide details about the availability of childcare in the area. Make sure to mention the government’s tax-free childcare initiative in all of your regular communications.  

If you are looking to understand how to support working parents, hr inspire, Hertfordshire’s leading HR consultancy, can help. Get in touch with our expert team today for further guidance and information. 

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