Gap Between Working Parents Needs and Employer Support Continues to Grow

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Photo Credits - Alexander Dummer via Unsplash

The support working parents need is vastly different to what they are getting. That’s according to Bright Horizons’ annual Modern Families Index survey, which highlights the disparities. Below, we examine the study’s findings and consider how these individuals can get the support they need.

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Insufficient Employer Support for Working Parents Is Impacting Their Mental Health

Bright Horizon surveyed over 3,000 working families to analyse the current childcare support for working parents. Worryingly, they found that overall support has taken a backward step since last year.

While three in ten parents seek childcare costs support, four in ten require help due to the cost of living. Because of this, 76% of men said they’d have to consider childcare options before pursuing a new job opportunity. And this number only goes up for women (80%).

READ: Working Parents are Hesitant to Take Leave When Their Child is Sick – Here’s How Employers Can Help

Furthermore, the survey highlighted shortfalls concerning employer support for working parents, as available time off at short notice was insufficient. Despite 32% of respondents requiring five plus days off for emergency care, 67% only took an average of four.

Then, the survey spotlighted gender disparities between parents. 74% of mothers said they carried the mental load of parenting, compared to just 48% of fathers. This isn’t just having a detrimental effect on their work and family life, but it’s also impacting their mental health.

As such, Jennifer Liston-Smith, Head of Thought Leadership at Bright Horizons, said, “Employers need to be moving forwards, not backwards, in enabling employees to combine their career with family life”. She added that it’s essential parents get the support they need to rest, recuperate and build family memories.

Flexible Employers Help Working Parents Juggle Work and Family Commitments

Now more than ever, it’s clear parents need the support of their employers. Even though Bright Horizons’ survey points out some rather alarming shortfalls, employers can still take steps to mitigate the issues.

One solution could be prioritising childcare support for working parents. It has previously been found that parents favour such support over every other financial benefit. As such, finding a package that employers can afford could resolve the support shortfalls.

Employers could implement hybrid models or four-day weeks to help working parents deal with the stress of juggling work and family life.

Moreover, being flexible could go a long way in reducing the mental burden parents carry, juggling work and life commitments. This could include introducing a hybrid model, enabling parents to work from home for a portion of their contracted hours. Alternatively, the employer could adopt a four-day week with compressed hours. By being flexible, parents could manage school commitments and doctor appointments around their jobs.

Finally, employers could offer a more rounded support package encompassing mental health support. Whilst not mitigating issues like increasing childcare costs, helping parents deal with the stresses of life could reflect in their performance and family wellbeing.

Requests for Flexible Work Could be the Answer

By law, eligible employees can make a flexible working request. Soon, this right will be improved, yet even before that comes into force, a right still exists. Currently, to be entitled to make such a request, working parents must:

  • Have continuously worked for their employer for at least 26 weeks
  • Be legally classed as an employee
  • Have not made a request in the last 12 months

READ: Top 3 Ways Employers Can Support Working Parents

If an individual satisfies these requirements, they could request reduced hours, remote working and more. Should an employee make a flexible working request, their employer must look at it fairly and respond within three months. In circumstances where an employee is struggling to manage their parenting commitments around work, this could be the answer. 

Asking the Employer Could Resolve the Matter

Where employer support for working parents is insufficient, employees may need to take matters into their own hands. Firstly, it might be wise to simply ask the employer for support. It could be that they didn’t realise or fully understand the employee’s circumstances. If this is the case, they may provide the appropriate support, resolving the matter swiftly.

However, if support is still not provided, making a flexible working request could be advised. As mentioned, eligibility criteria must be satisfied to make one, but once made, the employer has a legal obligation to explore it.

Should the employer continue failing to support the employee:

  1. The employee could look for external support funded by themselves. This is especially the case if family support isn’t available and could include childminding or counselling. Despite some options proving costly, the investment may be worth it if it improves work and family life.
  2. Alternatively, the employee may decide to find a more supportive role elsewhere. Even if the current employer isn’t supportive, many others will be. Therefore, finding a role that offers the correct support is essential to an employee’s well-being.
  3. Finally, the employee might want to seek legal advice. There could be circumstances where an employer is breaching the rights of working parents by not providing support. Here, a solicitor could assess the employee’s circumstances and advise on how to proceed.

Contact Redmans Solicitors now if you want legal advice. They are employment law specialists and could advise on your possible next steps. Also, sign up for our newsletter now to get daily employment law news straight to your inbox.

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