At one time starting a family almost invariably meant that a woman’s working life would have to be put on hold, while fathers were left to muddle through the best they could.
However, a host of relatively new laws coupled with changing attitudes across the business world are making things much easier for working mums and dads.
Despite this being a fairer way of organising work the changes have been partly forced out of necessity. Employers across the country are suffering skills shortages and recruitment difficulties making it even more important to cast the net as wide as possible.
Flexible working, crèche facilities, job sharing and mobile working are all becoming far more widespread and the notion of ‘family friendly’ policies are really starting to take hold.
Why is Family Friendly Working Becoming so Important?
Apart from the obvious legal and altruistic reasons companies are starting to become more family friendly for a range of more business-focused reasons.
Most companies in the UK, especially in the South East of England, are really struggling to recruit staff and these policies make it easier to attract working mothers.
Research has found that employers who are committed to family friendly arrangements are more attractive to people looking for work and this is vital in an increasingly tight labour market.
Offering more flexible working arrangements also brings other business benefits because it can enable smaller companies to remain open for longer hours.
Ultimately, of course, treating staff in a fair and professional manner when they start a family gains loyalty and makes it less likely that they will leave in the future.
What Sort of Arrangements are Available?
All workers are entitled to Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) Statutory Paternity Pay (SSP) and Statutory Adoption Pay (SAP) when they start a family. Employers must also provide the relevant amount of leave for staff with newborn or newly adopted children.
New parents also have a legal right to ask for more flexible working hours when they have a child. Companies can still refuse to agree if will disrupt the business, but as long as the changes are reasonable, such as a slight change of hours, requests are rarely turned down.
Under the rules companies are required to seriously consider requests for flexible working from parents with children under the age of six, or disabled children under the age of 18.
Other arrangements that can help working families include:
- Job sharing, this lets two people split a role that would usually be held by one person.
- Some employers let new mothers or fathers return to work in a Part-time Role.
- Childcare vouchers or access to a crèche are becoming popular benefits.
How are the Rules Changing?
The government’s Work and Family Bill was designed to force companies to become even more family friendly in the way they treat staff.
The rules, which came into force in April 2007, increased the scope of the existing legislation but they also improved communications between new parents and their employers.
The laws will increase maternity leave – ultimately to as long as 12 months. Fathers will also be entitled to more paternity leave if the mother returns to work before her full maternity entitlement.
The right to request flexible working will also be extended to include people with caring responsibilities for adults.
- Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) www.cipd.co.uk
- Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) www.dti.gov.uk
- Department of Work and Pensions www.dwp.gov.uk
- Advice from the TUC: www.worksmart.org.uk
Last Updated on 25 May 2021