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October 3, 2019

How Should Organizations Treat Working Parents? – Have Your Say

Kevin Dunne

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When you look back over your life, will you remember those late nights at the office or your kids' baseball games?

Will you fondly recall working the weekend to get that report ready for Monday, or being with your friends and family firing up the barbecue?

We all know the answers. We know that maintaining work-life balance is the biggest challenge facing working parents.

But if working parents are happy at home and looked after at work, with paid maternity/paternity leave, for example, this is good for business, too.

Working Parents and Family-Friendly Culture

Jenny Dearborn was chief learning officer at software giant SAP. And she noted, "When other employees notice their colleague being taken care of, it creates an overall family-friendly culture. And that matters, not only to our culture but to the bottom line. 

"SAP has seen that a 1 percent increase in the employee engagement index correlates to $75 million in net operating profit."

So, we asked you, our friends and followers on social media, "How Should Organizations Treat Working Parents?"

On Facebook, Greg Hering of Fort Wayne, Indiana, told us that working parents should be treated "the same as workers with no children. A worker should not be worried about job loss if they stay home because a child is sick.

"But a worker with no children should not be expected to take less time off, simply because they have no children."

Where Equality Begins

He added, "A working parent should be able occasionally to take a few hours off for an important school function."

But, he warned, "A program that favors flex time to some, but not others, is going to create serious issues."

Shaun Byrne took up the points raised. He said, "A really interesting response, Greg. It brings up the question whether we treat all people the same? Or do we look to treat them fairly and acknowledge specific challenges some groups have that others don't?

"Equality begins when we treat people fairly – rather than everyone being given the same treatment, irrespective of personal needs.

"Replace workers with children with workers with differing religions, and you may find you come up with a different answer."

Work-Life Balance

On LinkedIn, San Francisco instructional design and implementation manager Aliyah Heinze-Giardello was clear about what she expects.

She said, "Flexibility in schedules and 'online' time (the traditional 8-5 doesn’t usually work)."

U.K. assistant procurement director Kate Graefe made the point on LinkedIn that it's not just working parents who struggle, it's carers too.

She recommended, "Policies that genuinely allow parents to share paid leave as they like. I absolutely agree with the inclusivity of a flexible approach for wider groups of employees.

"Some are carers for elderly relatives, some may be managing mental health or other long-term issues that require flexible working to allow them to deliver their best."

The U.S. is the only developed nation not legally required to provide paid maternity leave. But when Google increased their paid leave period, they found the rate at which new mothers quit decreased by 50 percent.

Fear of Negative Impact

Benefits are also a weapon that employers can wield in the "war for talent." Publishing giant Hachette announced in September 2019 that they will offer 20 weeks of paid parental leave, regardless of gender. And they will be open to flexible working arrangements.

But that flexibility has to permeate the culture. Many employees with access to flexible work arrangements are reluctant to use them. They fear it shows low work commitment and will negatively impact their career.

Workers in Japan, for example, are fighting a culture that frowns on taking paternity leave. One Japanese father sued his employer, sports brand Asics, as he claimed he was punished for taking paternity leave.

In Tune With Changing Times

Colin Aleong, from Montreal, reflected that the way working parents are treated is defined by how the company wants its culture to be projected.

The customer service representative told us on LinkedIn, "It depends on how the organization wants to be seen. As a progressive one in tune with changing times? Or whether it also wants to be seen as a Customer – and business – friendly one?

"If the latter, it also has to make sure it is also an employee-friendly one. That means more flex time for working parents, and other considerations."

For a mother's take on the issues, read our blog Working Moms and Daddy Day Care.

Thank you to everyone who shared their top tips! And you can still have your say, below.

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