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Creating an inclusive culture for working parents and carers

Now, more than ever, it’s important that employers take into account the needs of employees who have parenting and caring responsibilities. The increasing impact of COVID-19 and the rise in numbers of women caring for aging parents and managing the homeschooling of children has created a unique environment for businesses throughout the UK.

Often, women returning to work after time away as carers or parents are faced with having to start in entry-level positions in businesses. This not only impacts the employee, but it also means that employers are not accessing the talent in their workforce. In addition, women returning to work often face a significant gender pay gap and are penalised for their time out of the workforce.

Closing the gender pay gap will only happen when more women fill more senior roles.  One of the causes of the lack of women at the top of UK businesses is what is commonly known as the motherhood penalty – it’s the negative impact on a woman’s career and future earnings when she becomes a mother, caused by time taken out of work, additional workload of becoming a prime carer and the difficulty of getting a career back on track due to the lack of flexible working options and lack of available opportunities.

The government has attempted to level the playing field with the introduction of shared parental leave and the Government’s Equalities Office are currently consulting on a host of improvements and protections to maternity leave and the availability of flexible working.

Enabling more women to continue their careers, despite motherhood and other caring responsibilities, and enabling more men to actively co-parent and take on more domestic responsibility is key to creating more gender-diverse teams.  When women work, economies work.  There will be a £55bn benefit to the UK economy by 2030 by closing the gender pay gap.

Despite doing better in education, women are over three times more likely to work part-time, are less likely to progress in work and generally work in lower paying industries and occupations as well as having lower pensions wealth. This is a waste of talent.  By the time a first child is aged 12, mothers average hourly wages are a third below fathers. Almost 1 in 4 older female workers have caring responsibilities compared with 1 in 8 older male workers.

As an employer, it is challenging to know where to start making changes to create more inclusive workplaces for parents and returns. Working closely with a top consultancy service to assist in developing these programmes is another effective strategy. Within the UK, CM Talent offers a unique service that supports both employers as well as returners with comprehensive and customised plans to enhance the workplace culture.

Nishi Mehta of CM Talent recommends the following five steps to create a more inclusive culture for parents and carers in any workplace:

1.    Create an employee network

Set up a parent and carers network (or focus group for smaller organisations) to bring your parents and carers together to share resources, give you feedback on ways to be more inclusive and support each other. We encourage you to include mothers, fathers, carers and grandparents in this group to get the widest representation.

2.    Recruit returners

Hire career returners into your organisation. Don’t be put off by a career break on a c.v. Their enthusiasm, maturity and experience will quickly pay off and they’ll be back up to speed in no time.  PwC estimate that there are at least 0.5m women on a career break at present who want to return to the workforce. Consider setting up a returners programme to directly attract experienced professionals back into the workplace with a period of supported work experience.

3. Support new parents

Support employees taking maternity, paternity, shared parental leave or adoption leave. Understand that they are experiencing a significant life event.  Communicate well and be empathetic to their individual needs.  Consider offering specialised coaching to smooth transitions from their role and back to work at the end of their leave and demonstrating your support and investment in their return.

4. Beware of excluding parents and carers

Be mindful of how you may be excluding employees with family responsibilities. Take into consideration the timings of business meetings, networking events and training. Cut out early morning meetings, evening and weekend events as these unnecessarily penalise parents and carers.

5. Offer flexible working

Offer flexible working arrangements for all employees, including new hires. Most businesses can organise themselves to accommodate flexible working (and this is likely to reduce operating costs). The majority of employees in the UK expect flexible working (not just parents and carers) giving a degree of choice over where, how and when work takes place.  Flexible working arrangements can help you attract potential hires to your business and encourage employees to stay with you. Consider how your leaders can lead smarter and more flexible teams giving a win/win for everyone.

Contact Nishi Mehta for further details.

CM Talent helps employers to attract, retain and develop gender-balanced teams.   Its sister business, Career-Mums – return to work experts – is a social enterprise supporting parents back to the workplace following a career break as part of a mission to inspire and develop #morewomenleaders.  

Using a combination of experiences gained from organisational development, psychology, leadership development coaching and supporting parents in the workplace, the CM Talent team are ideally positioned to support your return to work plan.