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Employee benefits lack adequate support for working parents, survey finds

Flexible working is vital for working parents, says editor of workingmums.co.uk

Just 14% of working parents feel supported by their employee benefits package, according to research by REC Parenting, an online platform that offers support to parents.

The survey found only 20% of working parents receive specific parenting support in their benefits package.

The most common employee benefits reported by working parents were mental health support (38%), childcare vouchers (27%) and healthcare services that their children can access (22%).

Lindsey Doe, managing director of Vivup’s FamilyCare benefits, stated that support for working parents should start at pregnancy and continue to evolve as children get older, when it might be most needed.

She told HR magazine that this could take the form of access to counselling for teenagers with mental health issues, or financial support such as contributing to childcare costs on school strike days.

She added that employers should frequently signpost and remind working parents of the support available.

Read more: Why childcare support makes perfect business sense

She said: “If you're a parent and manager, lead by example and show them that you too have challenges and have to change plans at times – show the workforce that it's OK.

“Offer flexibility so they are able to attend school plays and sports days without making excuses or apologising. 

“Make sure you have an inclusive and support culture, one that values and demonstrates work-life balance.”

Mandy Garner, editor of workingmums.co.uk, told HR magazine that one of the most vital benefits employers could offer working parents is flexible working.

A separate survey published last year by workingmums.co.uk found that 73% of working mums described a lack of flexible working as a dealbreaker for them when applying for a new job; 52% turned down a new job due to lack of flexibility.

Of those who had flexible working taken from them (32%), more than half (55%) said that they had left their job as a result.

Garner said: “The backlash against hybrid and remote working happening at the moment is really affecting parents and causing a lot of stress and worry.

“There are big concerns that it will lead to women dropping out of the workplace, and there are already some signs of this.”

REC Parenting revealed that 40% of working parents have considered quitting their job because of the pressure of juggling work and home life, which is more prevalent among mothers (46%) than fathers (32%).

Read more: Flexible work gives working parents confidence to progress

The survey also showed that 93% of working parents feel it is important a prospective employer is supportive to parents, as 66% said an issue with their children would affect their performance at work.

Elliot Rae, founder of parenting platform MusicFootballFatherhood and co-founder of the Working Dads Employer Awards, emphasised that employers should support men to be open about parenthood, and promote workplace equality.

He said: “Employers should be looking at family policies, such as equal parental leave and flexible working, supporting that with inclusive culture change work, including working dads' networks and strong senior role models that normalise male caring."

Clara Wilcox, a career and return to work coach, suggested employers could offer transition support for employees returning to work after parental leave.

She told HR magazine: “Offering support to transition back into work after parental leave with an external coach or interior mentor has shown to help parents tremendously.”

REC Parenting commissioned OnePoll to survey 2,000 working parents with dependent children aged 18 and under in July 2023.

Workingmums.co.uk surveyed 2,069 mums for its annual survey in June 2023.