Family-Friendly: What's It All About?
Ben Black of My Family Care explains the importance of being family friendly and offers some tips on amending the company culture.
There's a lot of press and a host of awards pushing the case for employers to be nice to their working mums and dads. What's it all about and why does it matter?
Let's start with the business case. How does being family-friendly help the bottom line?
Flexible working is a commercial reality; nearly every business across every industry sector has realised that flexibility and productivity can go hand in hand. The people that have benefited most from more flexible work patterns have been those who combine work with family.
The central message, that diversity is good business, is now well embedded. It's also accepted wisdom that a mixture of men and women make much better decisions than men only groups. Lehman Sisters would never have got itself into such a mess is the theory!
What an incredible waste that 50% of the cleverest, most talented people in the country are women and yet very few of them work their way through to the very top in business. There are far fewer barriers to women in almost every other area of society (the arts, medicine, music, education) than in finance and industry.
Given the above it's no surprise that employers have done more to pander to the specific needs of their working parents. Increasingly mobile workforces means mothers and fathers will leave and find an employer that does understand the dual commitments of work and family.
The Lord Davies Report made some fairly stringent requirements of businesses when it comes to future female board representation. You won't get female board members without doing the family-friendly bit right first. In addition there's plenty of equality legislation and expensive employment tribunals around to keep the most patriarchal firms on their family-friendly toes.
So how are companies going about being family-friendly?
The most important part of the mix is getting the culture right. How do you change culture? There's no magic button but there are some well-known must-haves:
- senior figure (ideally the chief exec, main board director, senior partner) on board and regularly on message;
- an active women's or family network holding regular well attended events;
- a complete range of policies.
Maternity Coaching et al
A woman coming back from maternity fully engaged, and clear on her work and family priorities is a win all round. It's these women who provide tangible proof that career and family are not mutually exclusive. Facilitated coaching sessions for mothers before and after maternity and detailed roadmaps for managers are the minimum for good employers.
Has become one of the must have benefits. The typical working parent will have a care breakdown 9 times a year. The typical backup care scheme will allow employees to book last minute nurseries nannies and child minders anywhere in the country at a moment's notice. There's always been plenty of good childcare out there but only recently has it been possible to access it at the last minute. Employers tend to subsidise the costs in a variety of ways but with care costing as little as £50 a day the business case, on an absenteeism basis alone, can be easy to make.
Anything Else You Should Know
Current family trends are based around fathers and eldercare.
Fathers and more importantly dependent care
With fathers, so the theory goes, if you get a few senior men working flexibly and accepting their roles as fathers and employees then it can make a massive impact on the flexibly working culture.
More and more of us will need to combine a job with some kind of responsibility for one or both of our parents. The figures are truly frightening especially in the context of an underfunded and under pressure social services. A sympathetic employer and some specific guidance and support can be essential.
If you would like any further advice on how to tackle being a family friendly employer please contact Ben Black firstname.lastname@example.org. My Family Care has also just published its 2011 survey on flexible working for working parents.