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

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Working parents are continuously navigating the challenge of balancing family and professional responsibilities. As a result, many of them hesitate to take leave when their children fall sick. 

Research by MetLife has validated this, finding that 18% or one in five working parents admit that besides health, taking time off work becomes their most significant concern when their child gets taken to the hospital. 

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Working Parents in the UK

Research by Working Families found that working parents in the UK have a preference towards flexible working as they offer the ability to better manage their time. 

According to the survey, 82% of UK parents would apply for a role that lists flexible working options, while only 31% would consider applying for a role without such options.

Job-seeking parents, especially those currently unemployed, show an even stronger preference for roles with flexible options. The survey reveals that 90% of unemployed parents in the UK would be inclined to apply for positions that specify flexible working arrangements.

Having flexibility at work significantly impacts employee retention, with 55% of working parents in the UK expressing a willingness to leave their current job for one that offers more flexible options.

When it comes to job preferences among all UK parents, flexibility is the second-highest priority (66%), just behind pay (73%). Interestingly, for mothers, flexibility and pay are equally crucial considerations.

Among employed parents in the UK, 30% find themselves in positions below their skill level because their current jobs offer greater flexibility. This underscores the need for more high-quality part-time and flexible roles in the job market.

In addressing workforce needs, employers should broaden their perspectives beyond just home and hybrid working. Notably, 46% of these parents hold place-based roles, requiring physical presence at a specific location and cannot be done remotely.

How Employers Can Help

Employers hold a pivotal role in fostering a supportive and empathetic workplace environment for working parents confronted with challenges, especially when their children face hospitalisation. 

Addressing these concerns can be achieved through a comprehensive strategy that includes policy enhancements, transparent communication, and financial support.

Flexible Work Policies

To alleviate the apprehension of taking time off, employers should consider implementing flexible work policies that go beyond rigid structures. Creating an environment where managers can engage in individual discussions with employees allows for tailored solutions, demonstrating a commitment to understanding the unique circumstances of each working parent. 

Flexible work arrangements, such as remote work options or adjusted schedules, provide a crucial lifeline for parents navigating the demands of both work and family life during challenging periods.

Paid Leave for Working Parents

Recognising the financial strain that often accompanies a child’s hospitalisation, employers can make a significant impact by providing sufficient paid leave explicitly designed to support parents in these situations. This proactive step ensures that parents can focus on their children without the added burden of financial worries.

Clear communication of these leave policies is essential, ensuring that employees are not only aware of their existence but also understand how to access these benefits during family emergencies.

Financial Support and Resources

Acknowledging that parents may face unexpected financial challenges during their child’s hospitalisation, employers can explore additional measures to offer financial support. This could include assistance programmes, financial counselling services, or even creating emergency funds to help ease the burden on parents dealing with unforeseen expenses. 

Communicating the availability of these resources ensures that employees are aware of the support mechanisms in place.

Regular Policy Review and Enhancement

Employers should commit to regularly reviewing and enhancing their policies to meet the evolving needs of working parents. This may involve revisiting statutory entitlements, considering enhancements that exceed legal requirements, and ensuring that policies are easily accessible to all employees. 

Well-defined policies contribute to a sense of security and transparency, reinforcing the employer’s commitment to supporting their workforce during challenging life moments.

Manager Training on Policy Application

Providing comprehensive training to line managers on the application of policies is crucial. Managers should be equipped to handle individual circumstances with empathy and consistency, avoiding potential biases and ensuring that the benefits and support offered by the company are accessible to all eligible employees. 

This training not only enhances the effectiveness of policies but also fosters a culture of understanding and compassion within the workplace.

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Career Transition Options

In certain cases, where the demands of a traditional role become too challenging during family crises, employers can explore career transition options. Offering roles with greater flexibility or reduced responsibilities allows parents to navigate their professional and personal responsibilities more seamlessly. 

This adaptive approach not only retains valuable talent but also demonstrates a commitment to the well-being of employees beyond immediate challenges.

Creating a Supportive Environment for Working Parents

Supporting working parents during challenging times requires a holistic and proactive approach from employers. By introducing flexible policies, facilitating open communication, and providing financial and career support, businesses can create a workplace culture that values and prioritises the well-being of its employees. All of this can be implemented to maintain and create a workforce that is resilient, engaged and productive. 

If you require advice or guidance on employment law matters, head to the Redmans website. To get in touch with our team of expert employment lawyers, click here.


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