Doctor Clare Kelliher: Working parents’ policies need flexible approach

There is much evidence to show that employers that provide their employees with some support mechanisms, such as benefits to help them cope with the demands of their non-work lives, build loyalty and enhanced commitment.

Doctor Clare Kelliher

Many employers have attempted to become more family-friendly in recent years and have developed policies such as providing enhanced parental leave, emergency care leave, workplace and/or subsidised childcare and various options for flexible working.

These policies have often been designed primarily to assist parents and carers and, in particular, mothers. However, it is important to recognise that all employees need to balance the demands of their work and life.

In this context, one size does not fit all and genuine flexibility is the key to allowing employers and employees to work out an arrangement that accommodates the particular needs of the employee and, at the same time, meets the needs of the business.

This need for a more flexible approach has been reflected in recent government policy, for example allowing parental leave to be shared and the opening up of flexibility provisions to all employees. 

Flexibility recognises that different employees will have different needs and that their needs may change as they progress through different life stages. For example, someone providing elder care may want a different type of arrangement from someone who is pursuing education, sports training or religious activities. 

Equally, although emergency support may be greatly appreciated by the employee that uses it, there is also a need to consider more general day-to-day support for employees. Employers may also be able to assist by helping employees with benefits, access to information and connecting them with others that may have relevant experience.

Doctor Clare Kelliher is a professor of work and organisation at Cranfield University