As Vodafone publishes its latest report, Clare Corkish, Vodafone’s UK Director of Human Resources, reflects on what more businesses should be doing to support new parents and caregivers.
Having a child is a thrilling but exhausting business, and managing work and parenthood is anything but easy. So we employers have a duty to support new parents and caregivers as best we can if we’re to make the most of the talent we have, and attract the new talent we need.
These days, there are more working-age parents in the workforce than out of it, whether single, married, same-sex, adoptive, young or old. And the employment rate for mothers has jumped from 66% to 75% over the last two decades.
But new parents and caregivers face many challenges, not least combining childcare responsibilities with work. Another challenge is the outdated societal assumption that looking after children is mostly a woman’s responsibility.
This attitude has seen women lose out when it comes to career progression and pay. Our research reveals that a shocking nine in 10 mothers believe having a child negatively impacts a person’s career.
We have to change this situation.
Not only because it’s the right thing to do, but also because, as our research shows, younger people are less likely to apply to companies with inadequate parental leave policies. And a significant proportion quit their jobs for the same reason. An enlightened approach to parental leave is now essential to be considered a good employer, even by those not planning a family.
Even companies that do offer good shared parental leave policies sometimes find that there’s a low take-up, perhaps because of a lack of understanding about what’s available, or because new parents are sometimes concerned that spending too much time away could damage their career prospects.
We need to remove these barriers.
Flexible working arrangements once a child has arrived should be supplemented by similarly flexible arrangements once parents have returned to work. We should support parents through the whole journey, not just at the beginning.
At Vodafone, our Future Ready way of working allows our employees – depending on their role – the opportunity to work at home, at one of our sites, or in a ‘blended’ environment, combining some time working from home and some at a Vodafone site.
We’ve seen how well we can work together virtually since the pandemic began, and this flexibility has enabled many of our employees to balance their busy lives in a much more fulfilling way.
Vodafone is also proud to offer 16 weeks fully paid leave for non-birthing parents to all our employees globally. And both our global parental leave and maternity policy include being paid for five days work, while working four days, for the first six months after returning to work.
We know that starting a family can be quite an isolating experience. So we’ve found that regular catch-ups and keeping-in-touch days while parents are on extended periods of parental leave can help them stay connected to their job and their colleagues. This makes the transition back to work easier.
Our report makes recommendations for both the Government and for employers on how to provide greater support for new parents and caregivers in the workplace. It talks about flexible working, shared parental leave, paternity leave provisions and the digital tools for employers to support flexible working.
Employers increasingly rely on working parents; we need to make sure that working parents can rely on their employers, too.