Published: 27th July 2023
Employee Experience Series: Supporting Parents in the Workplace
The six-week holidays have begun, so working parents have a few more balls to juggle. This blog details the reality of working and parenting in 2023 and the steps employers can take to make life easier. This is the first of three blogs we’re dedicating to working parents, moving on from support and flexibility to helping cover the cost of their everyday needs and back-to-school essentials.
The Loss of the Village
“It takes a village to raise a child.”
This famous quote is thought to have originated from the Nigerian Igbo culture, but the concept translates on a global scale. There are two ways we can approach this saying; the first relates to the child in the sense that children need exposure to a community comprised of different generations to grow, develop, and get a sense of the world.
The other side of this recognises the support parents need from others, suggesting that we were never meant to parent alone.
Once upon a time, families lived much closer together. When children married, they would leave the family home but would often only travel to the next town.
University education has become more accessible than it was for many of our older relatives, and the number of students at university is on the rise. A House of Commons Briefing Paper from 2020 stated that in 2018/19, there were 1.1 million full-time students in the UK, with 61% living away from home.
61% equates to 671,000 people, and according to What Uni, 36% (241,000) of them would’ve stayed in the area where they attended university.
From a distance perspective, this could be anywhere from thirty minutes to six hours from their hometown, but it demonstrates how families become more geographically distant. Without parents and other family members close by, when those students go on to have children, they don’t have the ‘traditional village’ network around them.
Fast-forward to when they become working parents, and they’ve immediately lost a source of support, and let’s be completely honest – free childcare.
Different Family Dynamics
This isn’t the case with everyone, and what we found interesting when researching for this blog was that the combination of the lockdown and cost-of-living crisis has meant that many people have chosen to move closer to their families.
There’s also an increase in families moving back in with their parents and living in multi-generational households. This offers much-needed help to working parents and the older generation when they need extra support.
There’s also a marked cultural difference when it comes to living among extended and multi-generational families. So, this is something to consider when considering how to support working parents in your business.
Create a Village
It’s not possible for every business in the UK to offer subsidised onsite childcare. It would be amazing! Yet, completely unrealistic...
However, there are other ways you can help support working parents, especially during the summer holidays when they have to find and pay for alternative childcare.
Be Truly Family-Friendly
Let’s cast our minds back to the Covid-19 lockdown when there was no option but to work with our children at home.
- How many children made an appearance during a virtual call, and what was the reaction?
- Were people upset about the interruption, or did we adapt and change our perspective because there was no other choice?
- Is this still acceptable in your business?
Any working parent will admit it’s easier to get their head down and concentrate when their children aren't home, but there is a price to pay for that peace.
Every situation is different, depending on the age of the children, level of income and whether the family is around to lend a hand. We all feel the impact of the cost-of-living crisis to some extent, and summer childcare is an extra expense. One of our Sodexo Engage colleagues revealed she was paying over £1,200 for her two children to attend a club for three days each week.
The average weekly grocery shop for a family of four in the UK is £129, which means that the cost of her summer childcare is the equivalent of nearly ten weekly shops!
We’ve written articles about what people are cutting back on during the cost-living crisis to afford the essentials. For many families, the cost of summer childcare adds to their financial anxieties.
Businesses accepted that children were present while parents worked from home during the pandemic, so why can’t we tolerate it during the summer holidays? There’s a marked difference – the holiday clubs are again open to all children.
Still, in this current financial climate, can we truly say they are accessible to all?
Employers must respond to every employee's request regarding flexible working, but do you need them to come to you?
What if you made the first move?
Every business is unique, so there’s no one-fits-all solution, but there are simple ways to take the pressure off working parents and save them money.
Here are a couple of suggestions:
Let employees own their hours: If they meet their deadlines, does it matter when your employees are working? What if some team members took time off during the day to entertain their children and logged back on in the evening? It won’t be for everyone, but there’s no harm in offering the solution if it can work for your business.
Establish a meetings policy: Can you plan meetings to only occur in the morning or afternoon during the holidays? When calls are staggered throughout the day, it means there are several occasions where parents have to find a child-free space. Allocating meetings to specific times takes the pressure off.
Childcare Vouchers & Government Support
If your business joined a Childcare Voucher salary sacrifice scheme before October 2018, any employee that also joined the scheme before that date can swap part of their pay for a childcare voucher to spend with their chosen childcare provider out of their pre-tax salary.
This means employees can spread the cost of up to £2,916 worth of childcare vouchers over several months, losing less of their wages to tax and National Insurance and saving up to 32% on their annual childcare costs (for a basic-rate taxpayer).
Employers save, too, paying up to 13.8% less in National Insurance Contributions for every employee on the scheme.
Click here for more information on the Tax-Free Childcare Government Scheme that replaced the voucher scheme in October 2018.
Sodexo Engage: Supporting Working Parents
This blog has set the scene for what life looks like for many working parents over the summer holidays, and we'll follow it up with two more blogs dedicated to parents. Next week, we’ll focus on the regulations around new parents in the workplace and ways to help them save money on the essentials.
For more information on providing a flexible and supportive workplace that helps all employees thrive, download our guide on Building a Cost-Effective and Sustainable People Strategy and request a call with one of our employee engagement experts to learn more.