Breaking barriers: supporting parents to excel at work

5 mins

Juggling childcare and chores at home with a full time, or even part-time, career is a chall...

Juggling childcare and chores at home with a full time, or even part-time, career is a challenge - a challenge that’s often overlooked by businesses. But the toll of ‘double shifts’ faced by working parents can no longer be ignored by employers.

Working mothers in particular face unique trials and overwhelm that male counterparts often do not. Spinning multiple plates while continuing to perform well at work can be tough. Two in five women feel they are held back from promotion, and nearly 12 million women left their jobs during the early stages of the pandemic. According to the same McKinsey report, the workforce still hasn’t completely recovered.

So, what can employers do to better support working parents in their careers? Here, we share best-practice for making the workplace a more equitable space for everyone.

Offer flexible and remote working

One of the most important ways employers can help working parents is by providing flexible schedules. The traditional 9-5 doesn’t always work for busy parents. Childhood illnesses, medical appointments or school performances rarely fall outside of standard working hours. So, allowing your staff to adjust their hours, take breaks throughout the day for childcare needs or take time off when necessary, can help reduce stress levels and improve productivity. Allowing employees to work their own hours can even help to balance out workloads among employees, so everyone isn’t overloaded with tasks.

Similarly, allowing remote working options for at least some days of the week will make people feel more in control of their lives and workloads. Ultimately, your workers will feel more valued and motivated.

Provide financial assistance

Did you know the basic cost of raising a child from birth to age 18 in the UK is close to £72,000? And if housing and childcare costs are added, that figure’s over £150,000. In the US the estimate is $310,605, or $17,000 per year. Raising children is expensive!

So, another way employers can support working parents is through offering financial assistance where possible. Depending on the size of the employer, this could involve providing subsidised childcare or childcare vouchers. Some larger organisations are even able to set up on-site crèches for babies and preschoolers. But financial support doesn’t always have to relate to childcare.

Have you considered offering to help cover costs associated with purchasing equipment or materials needed for work that might otherwise be too costly for parents to afford themselves? Especially if you’re offering remote working options to help with juggling work and family life, have you looked at whether your workers are comfortably set up with all the items they need to remain productive and motivated from home?

Additionally, offering bonuses or other incentive programs for parents who are excelling at work despite extra demands on their time could also send powerful signals about how much you value dedication and hard work. And as a last, but very important note on financial matters, make sure you’re closing any gender pay gaps and offering females the same wages as their male colleagues.


Prioritise work-life balance

Just as important as creating policies that make it easier for parents to manage their work is creating an organisational culture that values work-life balance across all employees.

Strive to promote an environment where no-one feels like they must choose between their job responsibilities and taking care of their families; instead, encourage an atmosphere where both are equally valued and supported by managers and co-workers alike.

Additionally, make sure you’re paying attention to how much overtime your employees are working and whether they’re getting paid fairly in comparison to other workers doing similar jobs without caring for dependents in addition to their duties at work. When all workers are treated equally, regardless of parental status, it spreads a positive message about how seriously you take supporting family life within your organisation. Again, crucial for employee satisfaction and your reputation as an employer of choice.


Encourage a healthy lifestyle

Parents are often so busy taking care of others, they don’t have much time to think about themselves. Why not step in and do that for them?

Employers have access to lots of healthcare provisions nowadays. From subsidised gym/health club memberships or onsite workout spaces to private medical insurance and health checks. But showing concern for the wellbeing of your staff needn’t be costly. Arranging something as simple as lunchtime group walks, a yoga or massage session, or offering free fresh fruit are steps in the right direction.  

And don’t forget the importance of mental health. Even just creating breakout rooms for staff to relax for a moment when needed can really help – especially for parents who have made it into work despite being up half the night with kids! Set up and share mental health help lines and have staff take mental health first aid courses to show your commitment to every employee’s wellbeing, but especially non-stop parents.


Plan networking opportunities

Finally, another great way employers can help working parents is by providing networking opportunities both inside and outside the company.

Consider setting up mentorship programs, professional development retreats, or hosting events geared towards helping parents build relationships with peers. Not only will this benefit those already employed by your organisation, but it establishes a network which may attract potential candidates looking for future jobs with your company due to its family-oriented atmosphere!


Overall, there are many ways employers can support working parents and create a fairer workplace environment. A great way to start is to normalise parental leave within your company and be understanding of the pressures working parents face. Remember, if you create a supportive, inclusive environment for parents at work, you’ll benefit from not only their success but the success of your business too.

Apollo’s an inclusive employer that celebrates diversity! Are you a recruiter with children? Come join us!

Or, get in touch if you’re an employer wanting to know more about how you can create an attractive and thriving workplace for talent from all walks of life. Apollo’s assisting our clients in building diverse teams for them to grow and prosper. We look forward to helping you as well.

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