Sarah Churchman: Should employers offer more support for working parents?

Balancing office and home life is not new to working parents but the events of the last year – where the home turned into the office – saw this finely tuned balance thrown off-kilter for many. If we acknowledge that the everyday reality of our working parents has changed greatly then it is only right that the support offered by employers should adapt accordingly.

At PWC, we recognised that support would need to take various forms in order to address everyone’s unique set of circumstances, but that ultimately it would need to be built on a foundation of trust. Our Everyday Flexibility policy was well established before the pandemic, allowing our people to flex their working hours when needed. However, we knew this would not be enough for some, as home and work blended like never before. We created a ‘Time Off For Dependents’ time code which our people can charge their time to when they are unable to work their standard hours due to caring commitments. Time charged to this code is paid as normal and gives us a picture of how parents are faring.

Our leaders have also played a crucial role in role modelling flexibility and encouraging open communication with their teams. It is this transparency which has allowed us to understand the reality of the situation our parents are in and tailor our support offering. We have an employee assistance helpline and we provide 10 fully funded care sessions covering care in the home for elderly or disabled dependants; and childcare provided by nurseries, nannies, and childminders.

We have also developed tailored wellbeing resources for parents and learning materials for children. But arguably some of the greatest support has been through our employee parents and carers network. Membership of this network doubled in 2020 as working parents and carers shared stories, hints and tips and let each other know they were not alone.

Ultimately, our working parents make an invaluable contribution to our organisation. Supporting parents through this exceptional time allows them to continue to perform to the best of their ability without reaching the limits of their capacity. The long-term benefits of this investment to our parents and our organisation can not be underestimated.

Sarah Churchman is chief inclusion, communities and wellbeing officer at PWC