HR under pressure to update parental leave policies

Paid leave simply doesn't go far enough for these working parents

HR under pressure to update parental leave policies

The family balancing act of working full-time and juggling children becomes increasingly difficult as work becomes more demanding and teenagers undertake more activities. That coupled with rising interest rates means budgets will become tighter leaving little room for additional treats, such as holidays, which are needed now more than ever.

Employers are under increasing pressure to find ways to support working parents.

“As part of our Wellness Report, we asked working parents what their employers could be doing more of to help them,” Lauren Berry, people and culture partner at people-management platform, Employment Hero, said. “Responses ranged from more personal leave to take care of sick children, paid paternity leave, flexible working hours and arrangements, subsidised childcare and additional paid leave. 

“Excluding partner support, 45% of surveyed working parents said they never had help at home, while another 48% had help occasionally. Only seven per cent said they always had help available.”

Employment Hero surveyed more than 6,000 employees across Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Malaysia and the United Kingdom – about their sense of wellness at work. The Wellness Report revealed that burnout, a sense of extreme fatigue caused by chronic stress, is spreading quickly across the working population with 58% of employees stating it had affected them in the past 12 months. Of the 1,000 Australians interviewed, 52% rate their work-life balance as average or poor, a six per cent increase from the previous year.

Parental leave is a big issue.

“It’s not just about paid parental leave,” Berry added. “Having a child is one of the biggest transformations people go through in their lives. Their routines, the way they live and what they do all changes the moment a child is born. As a society we should consider what are the elements we need to have in place to ensure families are supported more broadly, but as organisations, what can we do to help ease this and support families, to participate in the workforce more.”

“Generally speaking, companies need to have policies and frameworks in place to set expectations but there also needs to be some flexibility in the way you help parents navigate work and parenthood, because each situation is unique. We need to ensure that everything is available to all genders - not only to help share the traditional burden that women have around child-rearing but to also acknowledge that the makeup of families is changing. Why should same sex/gender parents be excluded from accessing paid leave benefits?”

Interestingly, the survey revealed that 63% of employees who rated their employer’s commitment to well-being as good, were likely to stay loyal to the business as a result. This could save major costs associated with turnover and hiring new employees.

Another poignant fact is that 46% of respondents who work remotely felt that mental health conversations are harder to have remotely meaning managers need new strategies to support hybrid teams.

“The benefit of hybrid work is the flexibility that inherently comes with it,” Berry added. “It gives parents and carers more capacity to repurpose time that would traditionally be occupied with a commute - and this is invaluable. At Employment Hero, our remote-first approach allows our people to drop their kids to school or go to an appointment without issue. We empower parents and all our people to manage their time and build their days in a way that works best for them - whilst still delivering in their roles.”

When asked how their employer supports their wellbeing as a parent, 39% reported flexible working hours and 18% reported remote or hybrid working arrangements.

“There is evidently real demand for flexibility around how and where working parents approach their business days, and these findings show that Australian workers equate this flexibility with an overall better sense of wellbeing,” Berry said.  

“For hybrid and remote work to be truly flexible and supportive, we need to ensure that leaders and managers are managing output and not just the amount of time at work. Businesses need frameworks and processes in place that support flexibility but also set expectations. Clarity is critical in remote work and helps people navigate how to apply it and talk to their manager about it.”

The new working environment is a complex beast with individual parenting and personal needs gaining traction as priorities. Employers face a difficult balance of getting the best out of their employees and allowing them the flexibility to live their lives.

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