Work-life balance | How to support working parents and navigate parental leave policies

How to support working parents and navigate parental leave policies

In the modern world, achieving a balance between work and family life is a challenge many working parents face. With businesses striving to create inclusive environments, supporting employees through parental leave policies has become increasingly important.

As Human Resources (HR) professionals, we play a crucial role in shaping workplace culture and supporting the diverse needs of our employees. In this blog, we explore the things to consider when creating a workplace culture that includes and supports working parents.

Parental Leave entitlements

In the UK, the maternity leave entitlement is 52 weeks. However, when it comes to pay, this becomes more complicated. All employers must give birthing parents Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) for up to 39 weeks. This consists of 90% of your average weekly earnings for the first six weeks. This then reduces to £172.48 or 90% of your average weekly earnings (whichever is lower) for the next 33 weeks.

Fathers or second parents are only allowed two weeks of paternity leave. New parental leave regulations (beginning 8th March 2024) allow this leave to be taken in non-consecutive blocks. The statutory rate of Paternity Pay is £172.48, or 90% of your average weekly earnings (whichever is lower).

Employee attitudes

A recent report by the Centre for Progressive Policy (CPP) found that only 18% of people believe the current paternal leave policy is enough. It’s also clear that some (43%) fathers aren’t even taking the statutory 2 weeks due to financial concerns.

A more generous approach would not only support fathers but empower mothers to return to work. Our society has become more egalitarian in recent years, however women are still often expected to do the majority of unpaid childcare and domestic duties. By implementing a more inclusive parental leave policy, your organisation would show a commitment to combating gender roles.

Be the expert

As the custodian of company policies and regulations, HR professionals must be well-versed in parental leave policies. This includes fully understanding legal requirements, entitlements, and any additional benefits. By being the go-to resource for employees seeking information on parental leave, you can provide clarity and guidance. During a stressful time for new parents, this can alleviate any confusion they might have. It’s also important to note that parental leave policies, like many areas of employment law, can change regularly. Therefore, you and your team must stay abreast of any new regulations.

Focus on inclusivity

HR departments work for the benefit of their colleagues, crafting a productive and happy workplace. Therefore, they must advocate for the best policies and benefits for them. Research has proven that workers don’t believe existing statutory policies support them enough. So, as an HR professional, it's your duty to work towards implementing more fair policies. This can involve advocating for equal parental leave rights for all employees, regardless of gender. It might also include offering additional support for adoptive or surrogate parents. By championing inclusivity, HR professionals create a better workplace for all employees.

Facilitate open communication

The best way for everyone to feel heard is to foster a culture of open communication. This means sharing your expertise with managers so they feel equipped to have conversations with their team members. Consider having regular meetings with management to assess the effectiveness of your policies. Again, you work for the benefit of the workforce, so creating a feedback loop is vital. The world is an ever-changing place, so it’s okay for your policies to change with it.

It could also be helpful to create an online bank of resources for employees to view and refer back to at their discretion. It means that everyone across your organisation has access to correct and relevant information. By having a digital record of all HR policies, you are keeping remote and hybrid employees in the loop. It’s common for those not working in person to feel less informed, so this is a great way to close the information gap.

Promote flexibility

Since the pandemic, flexible working arrangements have become popular among working parents. It allows them to spend more time with their children, complete household chores during the day and be there for the school run. When surveyed, 67% of parents agree that these policies have encouraged them to progress at work. This is particularly important for working mothers, who no longer feel pressured to pause their careers to have a family.

In conclusion, HR professionals play a pivotal role in supporting working parents. By advocating for inclusivity, they are empowering working parents. By facilitating open communication, they enable dialogue between employees and management to avoid stress and misunderstandings. By promoting flexibility, they are allowing working parents to balance their professional and personal responsibilities. Ultimately, by investing in the well-being of working parents, HR professionals contribute to a more engaged, productive, and inclusive workforce.

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