The challenge of juggling work and family life is the norm for many Australians. But many Aussie workers think employers could do more to make their workplaces family-friendly.
A recent study by McKinsey & Company looking into employee attrition rates across five countries (including Australia) found 40% of employees are likely to quit their jobs in the next three to six months. A further 18% said their intentions range from likely to almost certain. For parents, one of the top five reasons cited for wanting to quit was ‘caring for family’.
The benefits of family-friendly workplace policies are significant in more than one respect. Higher employee productivity and engagement, reduced absenteeism and reduced discrimination against workers with caregiver responsibilities are among the notable benefits for companies with family-friendly cultures.
If your business is looking for ways to attract more people, a family-friendly workplace can be a major drawcard, especially for specialist and senior talent. So, what goes into creating family-friendly policies and what do employers gain from them?
How to Make a Workplace Family-Friendly
The good news is that there are several existing initiatives you can adopt to make the workplace a more supportive environment. While some of these policies are basic employee entitlements, consider how you can shape these policies to suit your workforce and use them to complement each other.
- Paid and unpaid parental leave: Offering more paid or unpaid parental leave than the government-mandated allowances can be a big differentiator for employers.
According to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency’s (WGEA) 2020-2021 data, about 40% of employers don’t offer access to paid parental leave (either to both women and men or to women only) in addition to the government scheme. At the current time, the average length of paid primary carer’s leave offered is 10.8 weeks, while secondary carer’s leave averages just 2.3 weeks.
Clearly, there is much more scope to offer employees additional parental leave. Men are statistically less likely to take parental leave than women, so it’s also a good idea to encourage male employees to access parental leave as well.
- Flexible and remote working options: As more people have experienced working from home in recent years, job flexibility is increasingly expected by many workers. Tailoring a position to an employee’s flexible working preferences is one of the most effective ways to support parents and caregivers. It’s worthwhile looking at which positions in your organisation can be made more flexible or performed remotely.
Adjustments can include flexible start and finish times, four-day weeks, job sharing, allowing teams to work both at home and in the office throughout each week or fully remote. Consider what arrangements suit your business and how you’ll need to manage people on different schedules or in different locations.
- ‘Keep in touch days’: This concept gives employees on unpaid parental leave the opportunity to return to work for a few days without losing their unpaid parental leave entitlement. It is an excellent way for employees to stay connected and up-to-date with their job and colleagues while they’re on parental leave. Employees returning from a long period of leave are more likely to find the transition back into a work routine easier with this arrangement in place.
- Childcare support: Affordable childcare is a challenge for many Australian working parents and has a direct impact on women’s participation in the workforce. While some companies have established on-site childcare facilities for their employees, this option isn’t viable for all organisations. As an alternative to expensive on-site facilities, consider how your organisation could provide some financial support for childcare and school holiday care as part of employees’ remuneration packages.
- Mental health and wellbeing support programs: Managing family and work responsibilities can be tough at times, especially if there are conflicts at home or other family issues creating stress for employees. Remember, a family-friendly work culture is more than just offering flexibility around family commitments. An employer’s active support of employee health and wellbeing shows that a family-friendly culture is truly embraced and valued. Providing employees with access to mental health support services, which can be part of an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), can be particularly helpful for new parents and caregivers experiencing stressful life situations.
Talk to Employees About Their Needs
Understanding each employee’s individual situation is essential, as every person’s commitments and challenges are different. A family-friendly workplace isn’t only about supporting parents with newborns – there are also the demands of school, becoming a single parent or part of a blended family, caring for ageing parents and children at the same time or tending to children with special needs.
Be prepared to negotiate with employees about specific arrangements, as these will vary for each employee depending on their circumstances. Before you discuss benefits, flexible work and leave arrangements with employees and candidates, ensure you’re fully informed about the organisation’s legal obligations and that you have the necessary budget and compliance approvals.
The Benefits of Family-Friendly Policies
Understanding the benefits of family-friendly initiatives is useful in more ways than one. Increased employee productivity, engagement and retention are some of the key advantages of helping workers balance family and work commitments. For example, when Google increased paid maternity leave from 12 to 18 weeks, the rate at which new mothers resigned from the company fell by half.
When recruiting new employees, knowing how to demonstrate the company’s family-friendly culture in job ads and when speaking to candidates can also improve talent attraction efforts. As LinkedIn research shows, good work-life balance is the number one priority for Australian jobseekers when considering a new employer.
Family-friendly workplace policies can make a big impact on employee wellbeing and morale. Accommodating people’s family responsibilities helps make life less stressful and makes workplaces more enjoyable places to be. To make family-friendly workplace policies successful, it’s best to tailor them to employees. Keep a dialogue open with workers so you’re attuned to their needs.
Here at Evolve Talent, we take an active role in supporting family life, adopting a family-friendly work culture, and creating a flexible environment for our own team. We work around your needs and offer the following benefits in addition to an unmatched culture (our employees choose to work from the office!):
- Flexible working hours
- Meditation Mondays
- Working from Home/ Flexible and Remote opportunities
- Parental Leave Policies
- Wellbeing support program
- Volunteer days
If you’re looking for insight into what job seekers in mining, construction, healthcare and technology want in their next role (or if you’re a recruiter in search of a new opportunity), get in touch with our friendly team in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth today.