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Working parents need to educate employers

Working and educating in lockdown is creating huge challenges for working parents. Geraldine Gallacher, CEO of Executive Coaching Consultancy, argues for change, urging us to seize the opportunity to speak out.

February 2021

Today I’m quite sure Dante’s vision of hell would include working parents wailing and gnashing their teeth while trying to work and supervise home learning.

During the last national lockdown I wrote an article on how leaders can help parents better manager working from home with children.  Do take a moment to (re)read. It includes ideas for dual-career couples to work out how they might better share work and care together.

This time around, fresh advice is thin on the ground.  Best practice employers are realising the one thing parents don’t have is time, and giving extra days paid leave to cope with the corona-curve balls barrelling their way.

That may not suffice.  After almost a year of interrupted schooling, parents with the financial means are questioning whether one partner should give up work to support their child’s learning.  A question that gets louder with each additional child and tends to hover over the mother’s career.  Evidence from the first lockdown shows that mothers continue to shoulder the majority of childcare, and the pandemic is having a disproportionately negative impact in their careers.  Parents can ask their employer for furlough to cover childcare but research from the TUC shows 71% have seen their request rejected.

Play a long game

Employers cannot afford to be myopically short sighted.  This phase will pass, school gates will open once again. Come that happy day employers that have failed to retain female talent will count the cost as they attempt to recover and grow.

Employers need to actively listen to mums to understand what support worked well last lockdown, what didn’t, and identify practical steps that both the individual and organisation can take to mitigate pain points.  Keep asking this question to drive continuous improvement.

Many employers realise they need to update policy to reflect new working practices but need to go one step further and check the organisation’s values and manager behaviour to bring to life the good intentions behind the policy. 

Allies actively support working parents

Time is one thing working mums don’t have to fight for better support.  Others do – Dads in positions of influence who see the struggle their own grown up daughters go through trying to manage a career with children, working dads who want a better deal for their partner, younger colleagues that don’t want to find themselves in the same position in the future.  Now is your time to speak out.

Working mums, hang on in there.  Nothing will change if women leave the system and our daughters and sons need us to keep pushing for change.

Geraldine Gallacher, CEO, Executive Coaching Consultancy

London Accountant

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