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Shockingly few firms recognise needs of working parents

Only 18 out of the Top 100 Graduate Employers publish a full set of parental policies, a result that shocks executive coach Geraldine Gallacher, as parents are forced to work ‘in a vacuum’.

Geraldine Gallacher

May 2019

It’s been a record-breaking year for working parents. For the first time there are more women with dependent children in the UK workforce than those without, and more families than ever before have both parents working full time, a trend that looks set to become the norm.

Curious to know what employers are doing to support working parents, I asked an independent researcher to rank the websites of the Times Top 100 Graduate Employers by how transparent their support is for working parents.

I was shocked by the results. Few employers appear to recognise or talk directly to the needs of working parents, leaving them to muddle through and deal with predictable pressures from work and home on a daily basis.

Job applicants are frequently left in the dark about the support available to them. Only 18 employers in the study publish a full set of parental policies that include details of pay and duration. The rest either don’t publish (46) or use general rather than specific details (36) to talk about them.

We know that when parents, both men and women, operate within a vacuum of information they tend to find their own solutions. They turn down promotions, choose sideways moves or change employer in order to get the flexibility they need to manage work and home responsibilities.

Employers shouldn’t expect applicants to ask for this information at interview. They won’t for fear the question will count against them. By being up-front with this information applicants can make an informed decision about whether the job is compatible with home life.

Similarly, we couldn’t find a single reference to shared parental leave (ShPL) in over half the websites we looked at. We know that low take up is partly due to poor publicity. Until this changes, women’s career decisions will remain inextricably linked to their partner’s ability to share work and care responsibilities.

MP Jo Swinson’s Parental Leave and Pay Arrangements Bill, currently working its way through parliament, will require employers with 250 or more staff to publish details of parental benefits. Ten leading employers have already done this on a voluntary basis. As the number of families with both parents working rises, employers will need to think seriously about how they market their employer brand competitively to working parents.

Copies of the Executive Coaching Consultancy research, The Parental Fog Index, are available to download at: www.executive-coaching.co.uk

Geraldine Gallacher is founder and MD of the Executive Coaching Consultancy. 

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