Rosie Woods: Will the government’s childcare measures open up potential talent pools for employers?

Credit: Scott

The [extended hours childcare] initiative is great on one level, but if the ultimate goal is to get more parents back to work, it solves only a third of the problem.

The scheme gives ‘free hours’ but in most instances, it acts as a subsidy within the nursery system so there is still a cost attached for parents. The second problem is the infrastructure is not there. Parents struggle to secure nursery places due to demand outstripping supply.

Parents, especially of young children, are also going to require a greater level of flexibility from employers.

We have thought a lot about the issue and decided that, for SMG, an overt flexibility policy coupled with a culture which supports people, particularly parents, to make positive work-life balance choices, is key to securing talented parent-employees.

We have an active parents’ group, as a support network and to feed into policy and cultural progression in the business. This group directly influences company decisions, for example recent changes to family policies to support parents while they are on parental leave (increase enhanced pay/time-off), as well as supporting people when they return and are managing the balance of work and parental priorities.

Our approach to hybrid working across the board should help parents get the balance they need;  our employees are empowered to choose where and when they can be most effective on any given day.

Flexible working is ingrained at a senior level; we have a number of people in our business on part-time hours (me included) which creates an ‘in it together’ culture. We reinforce this through engagement surveys and employee resource groups, so we continually learn and iterate our approach as needs change.

The government’s policy change will only be beneficial if childcare supply improves and employers codify policies to support this group in returning to work.

Rosie Woods is client manager and parents group leader at SMG