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How Employers Can Support Working Parents

 In honor of Working Parents Day (September 16), we’re taking a deep dive into the topic of working parents.

Achieving a sense of work-life balance is a struggle that really hits home for working parents.

working parents

Out of the 34.2 million families with children under the age of 18 in 2016, 89.7 percent reported having at least one parent employed. That means the likelihood of any company having at least one working parent among its ranks is pretty high.

Want to learn more about the breakdown of working parents in the workforce? Check out our infographic: “Working Parents & The American Workforce.”

Working Parents & The American Labor Force

Challenges facing working parents

The challenges employees with children face include emotional, physical, financial and logistical concerns.

Below are a few of the top challenges facing working parents, according to Parents.com:

  • Feeling guilty about not spending enough time with their children
  • Finding time to maintain their own health and wellness
  • Finding quality, affordable childcare
  • Keeping track of work, family and personal schedules

Why working parents can make great employees

Working parents made up roughly 32.7 percent of the U.S. civilian labor force in 2016. And although they are often juggling a lot of responsibilities, they also have a lot to offer employers.

According to Harvard Business Review contributor Peter Bregman, the skills successful parents develop uniquely qualify them to be a great managers:

  • “Successful parents love their children and often make sacrifices to do what’s best for them…The best managers care deeply about their employees and will help them make the right choices for them, even if it’s not in the manager’s best interest. “
  • “Let’s face it, parenting can sometimes be excruciatingly boring. Successful parents have a tremendous amount of patience… Great managers need tremendous patience because it’s not about their individual success; it’s about the contribution of their employees.”
  • “[G]reat parents strive to foster independent, capable children… Likewise, the best managers build independent, capable teams.”
  • “The best parents set clear boundaries so their children feel secure and confident…[and] set appropriately high expectations so their children know to reach far… The best managers also have appropriately high expectations of their employees and set clear boundaries about what’s acceptable and what’s not.”
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(Read the full article on the Harvard Business Review website: “Why Parents Make Great Managers.”)

HuffPost blog contributor April McCormick offered a more colorful and humorous perspective in her thoughts on the subject:

  • “Parents are used to cleaning up messes they didn’t make with minimal to no complaints.”
  • “A stone cold poker face during standoffs, bluffs and negotiations is a parent’s specialty.”
  • “Parents can spend hours pretending to be interested in a task, conversation or event, all while smiling and nodding the entire time.”

(Read the full post on the HuffPost blog: “9 Reasons Parents Make The Best Employees.”)

5 things employers can do to support employees who are parents

So what can employers do to accommodate employees with children and distinguish themselves as an employer of choice for working parents?

Below are five ways employers can make their organizations more appealing for working parents:

1. Offer paid parental leave

While employees are guaranteed 12 weeks of unpaid leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act for the birth or adoption of a child, today’s working parents want more. Paternity leave, or leave for new fathers, in particular, has become an increasingly popular benefits trend amongst employers. Offering paid parental leave is one way employers(like Netflix) are differentiating themselves as they compete for top talent, and companies that do offer some sort of paid parental leave (like Netflix) are seen as leaders within their industries.

Looking for more about parental leave? Check this advice from Bonnie Scherry, G&A Partners’ director of corporate HR: “How To Negotiate The Best Parental Leave And Perks At Work.”

2. Be willing to be a bit flexible with working parents

Workplace flexibility is a perk that’s highly prized by parents and non-parents alike. If possible, consider allowing employees to flex their schedules around those of their children. Options for flexible work arrangements include working from home part-time, telecommuting, adjusting shift start times, etc.

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3. Offer on-site childcare.

As previously stated, finding quality, affordable childcare options is one of the biggest challenges working parents face. To appeal to working parents, employers might consider offering onsite daycare options, or allowing employees to bring their children to the office if the baby-sitter falls through.

Employers should carefully investigate all the legal issues surrounding the subject before taking any action, however.

“Employers face such obstacles as complying with local licensing laws, increased liability for potential child injuries, vetting child care providers, and ensuring there is sufficient space and utilities for the children, among many other considerations,” according to Nannina Angioni, a labor and employment attorney and partner of the Los Angeles-based law firm Kaedian LLP, who was interviewed on the subject by Fast Company writer Gwen Moran.

(Learn more about legal and practical issues employers that offer onsite day care face over on the Fast Company website:  “What Will It Take For Employers To Offer On-Site Day Care?“)

4. Extend wellness benefits to the entire family

While a gym membership reimbursement will appeal to all employees, employers can go the extra mile to court working parents by offering a family gym membership reimbursement. Employers may also want to consider extending other wellness program benefits, like free flu shots, to the children of employees.

5. Organize a few family-friendly employee events/gatherings.

Activities and events that allow employees to get together outside the office are a great way to boost employee engagement, but it can sometimes be difficult for working parents to attend. To make sure employees with children feel included, employers may want to consider throwing a few more family-friendly events into the event rotation.

For example, G&A Partners recently hosted a company picnic at the zoo and invited employees to bring their families. Everyone loved getting the chance to meet and mingle with their coworkers’ families, many of the employees with children were particularly grateful as the event offered a way for them to participate in a company event without sacrificing time with their families.

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