The view that most employees are less engaged with their careers after they become parents is widely held in today’s workplace and has only one major drawback. It’s not true.
Among the biggest misconceptions about parents at work is that they lack commitment and that helping them to juggle childcare is a waste of effort. “Studies have shown that a flexible, family-friendly workplace can motivate staff, reduce staff turnover, help attract new staff, reduce workplace stress, and generally enhance worker satisfaction and productivity,” writes Anu Partanen in The Nordic Theory of Everything. Companies that have introduced family-friendly measures often report significant reductions in staff turnover, less absenteeism and an increased likelihood that mothers return to their original employers after their maternity leave. Partanen’s findings mirror those discovered by consultancy firm Great Place to Work. After surveying more than 400,000 employees, the company found that parents are more dedicated to their job and are planning long-term futures at their organization. Similarly, a survey of business owners by the U.S. Center for Economic and Policy Research said that parental leave programs had either had a positive or no negative effect on profitability and performance (91% of respondents), productivity (89%), turnover (93%) and employee morale (99%).
The benefits of a better work-life balance
Employers who work to create a solid work-life balance for their employees stand to reap many benefits: retention, recognition, morale and productivity. A study carried out by Sodexo in seven countries found that 89% of SME leaders noticed an increase in productivity and efficiency after implementing measures to make it easier for employees to manage their personal lives. In Australia, companies such as Westpac and Deloitte have successfully used Parents At Work, a service that offers support, coaching and courses to help people balance their family, personal well-being and career responsibilities. By providing such services, both companies have been recognized as progressive employers and family-friendly workplaces.
Better talent acquisition and retention
Clearly, the work-life balance is an important aspect of a job when it comes to attracting and retaining employees, either before or after parenthood. The alternative is to lose talented people, particularly women, who cannot easily be replaced. Kieran Snyder, the CEO and co-founder of writing platform Textio, interviewed 716 women who left the tech industry and found that 67% gave motherhood as their main reason for quitting. And only 3% of those interviewed said they wanted to return to the tech sector. Finding skilled people on the employment market is a challenge for any company, particularly in the tech field – and almost inevitably involves considerable time, effort and cost. To avoid these situations, employers need to implement effective parental policies. And among such policies, there are three must-haves:
1) A supportive culture
Providing benefits for working parents is a first step, but a vain one if employees don’t use them because of social pressure. According to Kelton Global, 41% of U.S. working parents don’t believe they could be successful without a supportive boss. A supportive office environment starts with a leader who sets the tone for a more caring culture and who raises awareness among all employees.
This supportive culture can also be promoted by working parents themselves. After she came back from maternity leave, Liz Marlow, at Sodexo in the UK, launched a Working Parents Group that helps on many issues, such as how to claim childcare vouchers and how to request flexible time, while also providing coaching about how to remain a good parent as a full-time employee.
2) Easy access to childcare facilities
Supporting part of the cost of childcare or providing an on-site daycare service can be a decisive argument in the war for talent. Sodexo, in France, is a partner of Crèche Attitude that provides childcare solutions at local centers or workplace-based facilities. Employees can also swap part of their pay for childcare vouchers to spend with their chosen provider out of their pre-tax salary.
Once she knows her baby is in good hands, the other priority for a relaxed and productive working mom is to feed her baby properly. Google offers mothers a lactation room with hospital-grade breast pumps, while in the Philippines, 79% of employers provide private spaces where women can pump.
In Chile, nursing moms have a paid hour off each day that helps them juggle their schedule. Some choose to come to work an hour later (or leave an hour earlier), while others take two 30-minute breaks during the day to pump milk or to go home to feed their baby in person.
In Spain, increasing concerns about parents’ work-life balance have led to more opportunities for working from home, flexible hours and childcare services. Sodexo has responded to the latter need by offering companies the Guadería Pass, which reduces the cost of childcare through a tax exemption. “Each month the parent receives an e-voucher by email and they send it to the childcare center,” explains Miriam Martín, Digital Marketing Leader and Design, Sodexo Spain. “The daycare center enters the e-voucher code on Sodexo’s website to receive payment for the service. So, the company benefits from a streamlined service in terms of admin, the employee saves money and the nursery attracts new clients and improves its brand image.”
In Chile, Sodexo’s Párvulo Pass is used by more than 400 customers and is accepted at 700 childcare centers across the country. “Along with centralizing the administration of a childcare benefit and reducing the administration costs, our platform also helps parents to search for a daycare center that matches the parent’s working hours,” says Rodrigo Fuentes, Employee Benefits Manager, at Sodexo Chile. “Clients can enter and review information such as parental income, and use a search engine for daycare centers – complete with their commercial conditions, service days and values.”
3) Paid leave, the most common parental perk
The leader in this area is Sweden with 480 days of paid parental leave, while the United States is the only advanced economy that doesn’t guarantee it. However, more than one-third of organizations worldwide offer parental leave beyond the statutory minimum, according to Mercer’s latest Global Parental Leave report. This includes provision in developing countries, where the rise of women in the workplace is a significant factor.
Having a baby is a physical and emotional upheaval and a major life adjustment. Employers are aware that mothers who get enough time to fully recover and build fulfilling family bonding would be more committed to their job. Adobe Systems, for instance, ranks fourth on Working Mother’s best companies list, with its 26 fully paid weeks of maternity leave and 90% retention rate for those who take advantage of it.
Although paid leave has mainly been a woman’s concern, the rise of paid paternity leave is becoming marked around the world, with 84% of employers in India offering such leave, amid a series of socio-cultural and family structure changes. In Chile, a bill called Universal Childcare currently under consideration would include the right of fathers to access daycare for their children during working hours. “This initiative is extremely positive for Sodexo,” says Rodrigo Fuentes, “because it is aligned with our policy pillars of diversity and inclusion, and promoting equality between men and women.”
Companies need to realize that the idea of people being less motivated in their work after becoming parents is ‘fake news’ – and that providing a family-friendly work environment has positive benefits. Parents feel appreciated by firms that help them to juggle their work and home lives, and respond by maintaining or increasing their previous levels of productivity. To reap the benefits, employers need to be supportive, to provide some form of help with childcare, and introduce paid leave where this is not already provided by national legislation.
INTERVIEW with ANNE-LAURE LAHAIE, Marketing & Communication Director at Crèche Attitude – Sodexo Group
Why are childcare programs so key to retaining working parents?
Finding the perfect childcare solution has become a major concern for young working parents. They have various options when it comes to choosing child care but in France, a majority of families prefer a child care to offer a safe, stable and high quality care for their children while they’re at work. However, the only problem is it can be challenging to find a place in a child care center.
At the same time, more and more employers realize that they need to create a family-friendly environment if they want to retain working parents. By offering their favorite solution to take care of their children, employers give the most valuable social benefit to their employees. Parent-friendly policies turn employers into more attractive places to work and improves retention rates.
How does Crèche Attitude implement childcare services into existing businesses?
Crèche Attitude, one of the country’s first private day-care center operators, supports existing businesses to ensure their employees’ well-being at work. Crèche Attitude operates more than 1.000 child care centers throughout France. The families pay the same price as in a public day care center and are able to choose a care center close to their home in our child care center network if the employer accepts to provide financial assistance for places in childcare. The centers are all easily accessible, with opening hours adapted to parents’ professional constraints. Along free-standing centers, Crèche Attitude also provides childcare solutions at workplace-based facilities. Crèche Attitude assists the businesses as well as the parents throughout the implementation. Furthermore, Crèche Attitude proposes programs during holidays for older children (4-12 years).
Can you name some of the benefits of programs like Crèche Attitude for parents and children?
Working parents are facing the biggest difficulties to maintain work-life balance. The program we offer strongly contributes to improve this balance making life easier through large opening hours and centers close to home.
Leaving their child in a high quality, trusted childcare center can give them peace of mind and greater availability while they’re at work.
In our child care centers, children get to spend time around one another in a supervised, structured and safe environment. Our centers focus entirely on the children’s development and well-being. It includes a nice mix of activities during the day to teach different skills, such as supporting children to appreciate and care for the environment. Crèche Attitude has established an environmentally responsible approach transforming its facilities into eco-friendly child care centers.
Also, Crèche Attitude has launched an app which allows parents and child care centers to easily communicate. The app also enables to view photos not to feel like they’re missing out on moments while their child is in daycare, access billing information, menu and calendar sharing.
 2015 Workplace Flexibility Study – CareerArc and WorkplaceTrends.com