Joanne Waterworth: Family-friendly benefits can help attract and retain key talent

As we move gradually out of restrictions and work together to create our ‘new normal’, we know that many employers are looking at how they can support their staff members in keeping and improving on some of the flexible and family-friendly ways of working that many of us have experienced through this challenging year. And they need to be: our latest polling shows that, following the experience of the pandemic, 69% of parents would apply for a job advertised as flexible over one that isn’t. To attract the most diverse talent employers need to up their game on employee benefits.

Key policies we’d encourage employers to look at are enhancing their family leave provision; the leading employers are giving the same amount of paid leave to either parent. We know employees value paid time off for dependants and emergency childcare days. And it’s important to support people on their journey to parenthood too, with paid time off for IVF treatment and recovery as well as adoption and surrogacy appointments.

We would also recommend offering coaching and formal and informal support for parents and carers as they go on leave, and as they return to work. Training for line managers on how to support parents and carers is hugely valuable and a worthwhile investment for an organisation.

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For an organisation to truly stand out, they need to work towards flexible working for everyone in the organisation, at all life stages, from day one of employment. That means discussing opportunities for flex at interview, through induction and at regular reviews. We are seeing this work for employer members in industries as diverse as retail and construction. The bar is getting higher on flexible working after the year we’ve been through: to ignore that makes very bad business sense.

Joanne Waterworth is senior relationship manager at Working Families