Supporting parents during and beyond Covid-19

As more organisations respond to the need to attract and retain parents as key talent, it’s important not just to have the right policies and processes in place but also to encourage a culture that supports all parents to manage the conflicting challenges of family and work life. 

To show diverse families

In the first Parenting Roundtable Discussion from The Clear Company, D&I professionals shared their experiences and what employers can and are doing to support all parents – embracing different families, and specifically in the context of Covid which has significantly impacted on new and existing parents.

Jenny Hinde who as Executive Director of The Clear Company works in D&I across several sectors and mother of 3, highlighted the anxiety of the increased risks to pregnant mums, home schooling and flexibility, parents playing catch up on career progression and lack of respite & support for parent carers and childcare provision.

Her research findings showed that:-

  • 61% of parents work less hours due to the cost of childcare.
  • 57% of mothers believe Covid has impacted their career progression.
  • Fathers and partners are not taking shared parental leave (take up is around 2%).

Women returning to work

Jen Davidson, Managing Consultant at The Clear Company and currently on maternity leave joined the forum and shared her experiences as a new parent.

  • It has been an isolating experience, her baby is almost 6 months and yet has met hardly anyone.
  • Conversations with other mothers show that challenges of becoming a parent have been amplified due to the pandemic e.g., getting over birth trauma, post-natal depression.
  • As things open, taking babies out in public and managing things like feeding and changing them is also daunting as it’s not something that’s had to be done before.
  • Many fathers are back at work, so the caring parent is having to cope with this by themselves
  • Lack of social opportunities for babies also means the transition to nursery is much more of a challenge, some nurseries aren’t even open for visits yet.

Returning to work is also different as new work practices and cultures have changed in many places and there is an element of trying to fit childcare arrangements around new ways of working.

Supporting the wellbeing of new parents in the workplace

Nishi Mehta, founder of CM Talent set up in 2016 to support women to return to work after having a career break, shared her research findings around supporting the wellbeing of new parents in the workplace and suggest how employers can create an inclusive environment for their working parents.

  • 54,000 women a year are pushed out of their jobs due to having a baby.
  • 77% working mums have encountered negative or discriminatory treatment at work.
  • 44% working mums earn less than before they had children.
  • During the First lockdown in 2020 women took on 2/3rd additional childcare duties.
  • Ethnically diverse women have a double impact as they have higher risk rates in pregnancy and childbirth.
  • Isolation and health visits by phone means mother and baby health issues are not being picked up as easily, with evidence that suicide rates are rising.
  • Mothers who have lost one or more previous pregnancies have been made more anxious by the restrictions.

Here are her some top tips for the organisations-

  • To create a Conversation groups
  • Buddying groups – putting people into small groups to support each other
  • Be aware of the financial impact – especially for single parents
  • Awareness of Pre-natal mental health
  • Post-natal depression counselling for women returning to work

Creating support groups, educating managers, and updating policies

When polled 63% of the audience said their organisation had not adopted family friendly policies to reflect Covid. The roundtable discussion had provided them the great opportunity to share ideas; and the challenges involved in creating and implementing progressive maternal & parental policies gave them a wealth of ideas to discuss in their organization.

Attendees discussed how to support parents along the whole parental journey so that employers can move beyond the basics to best-in-class provision. They felt it was important to normalise the experiences that parents are having and to put things in place that will make sure they cope. 

  • Setting up virtual conversation groups has been done by many – so people can share common experiences.
  • Return to work programmes should be adapted with the focus on asking people what will work for them in the current situation.
  • Some attendees have seen flexible working practices adjusted so that they are available to people as soon as they start in a role.
  • There was emphasis on trying to give people more choices.

In her closing remarks Jenny Hinde, Executive Director at the Clear Company also noted the value of lockdown learning and the benefit to be gained from bringing the things that worked well to create reasonable adjustments for pregnant workers and their families.

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