Karen Brookes: How can employers support working parents during the Covid-19 crisis?

Karen Brookes: How can employers can support working parents during Covid-19

Most successful businesses put their employees at the very heart of operations. After all, it is the people, as well as the organisation’s operations, that combine to make up organisational culture.

Inevitably, then, Covid-19 (Coronavirus) presents every employer with huge challenges, not just in how to support employees and pull through as a stronger, more resilient business, but how it can maintain its very cultural essence.

Sir Robert McAlpine is a family business, both in ownership and attitude. Our approach to how we support our employees and their loved ones has evolved over a long period of time. Knowing that a one-size-fits-all approach does not reflect the diversity of society, through 2019 invaluable insight was gathered from employees to develop the organisation’s Family First policies. These include gender parity for family leave, enhanced family leave after 12 months’ service and the introduction of paid leave for carers.

When, shortly after this was introduced in January 2020, an unprecedented global crisis brought forward a new set of challenges, it became clear that this would be the time that we all appreciate the relationships we have with our families more. Employers in every industry play a vital role in supporting employees through this difficult period, but crucially, should also keep in mind everything that is being learnt so to enable an informed approach going forward.

To take one example, Sir Robert McAlpine’s thinking in respect of flexible working has evolved significantly and it is taking these experiences on board to decide how to approach this in future. In terms of right now, among other things, the business is also conducting regular call-and-connect sessions to keep teams engaged, as well as on a more practical level, allowing access to a support fund for employees who are experiencing financial hardship as a consequence of Coronavirus, and a resource hub with tools for things such as diet, exercise, wellbeing and mental health.

We all know that things will never be the same again, but when this ends, there will be positives to take away and progressive changes that can be made. This is not just about supporting people through a crisis but ensuring family values can weather any storm.

Karen Brookes is director of people and infrastructure at Sir Robert McAlpine

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Jane van Zyl: How can employers support working parents during the Covid-19 crisis?

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