Toni Graves: Should employers offer more support for working parents?

Everyone has been affected by the pandemic and different people face different challenges, depending on the nature of their job and their personal circumstances. The majority of our people are working from home and, with schools closed, parents are juggling childcare and home schooling on top of their day jobs.

Flexibility is key to supporting working parents. We encourage people managers to understand each person’s individual circumstances. This has led to greater flexibility around when work is completed, for example, so parents can set aside times during the working day to focus on home schooling.

We offer five days of emergency family leave over a 12-month rolling period. In response to the latest restrictions, we have reset this so parents and carers can take an additional five days if they have used their allowance. This can be combined with holiday, parental leave or unpaid leave to provide tailored support for each individual.

We have introduced coaching for those with caring responsibilities and their people managers. Our normal offering – parental coaching for women taking/returning from maternity leave and three-months-plus shared parental/paternity leave for men – continues and includes coaching for people managers.

Our parent buddy scheme continues virtually, matching maternity returners with experienced parents and offering a programme of talks to help parents navigate the early years.

In line with government guidance, our emergency back-up care provider can provide in-home care, education services, adult care support, and a selection of virtual clubs run throughout the day and after school to help keep children engaged. Employees can utilise 10 days of back-up care each year and can also pay directly for services. We offer a subsidised nanny placement service and an online portal which allows employees to search for regular childcare, including childminders or tutors.

We are still learning and adapting to our employees’ needs but the first step is to listen so we can respond in the most effective way.

Toni Graves is global head – reward and wellbeing, at Allen and Overy