Are you creating a more parent-friendly work culture?

Being a new parent inevitably comes with a variety of challenges. One challenge that new parents shouldn’t have to face is an unfair work culture. Is your business is taking the right approach?

The millennial workplace has taken positive steps over the last decade in order to accommodate the evolving environment that we work in.

Whether it’s larger scale issues like encouraging flexible working, or smaller nuances like the aesthetics of the workplace, we have certainly come a long way.

READ: 3 major benefits to a positive company culture

More specifically, there has been a huge improvement in company policies that relate to new parents (both pre- and post-natal).

Creating a culture within your workplace that’s genuinely ‘new-parent friendly’ is becoming an essential foundation of healthy business environments.

Thanks to the many activists and advocates who have devoted their lives to this cause, workplace policies in this area have evolved drastically.

Today, employers are becoming increasingly accommodating to people who are starting or growing their family.

An example of an Australian organisation that has been advocating for fairer ‘new-parent’ policies in the global workforce is WORK180, a female-led business that pre-screens companies to see how female-friendly their workplace policies are.

Because of the tireless work of companies like WORK180, both larger scale corporates and SMEs are adopting practices that not only tolerate those wanting to start a family but are encouraging and supporting of them throughout the process.


The poor practices of an Australian unicorn


But, every now and again, there are stories that surface about companies whose approach to those looking to start a family is dated and unfair – making the already emotional and vulnerable time of pre- and post-pregnancy unbearable.

In fact, SmartCompany recently reported that Australian prodigy and so-called ‘unicorn’ startup, Envato had been “drastically changing” the roles of mothers returning to work, and “denied them career development opportunities”, causing a pregnant employee to feel “unsafe” in her work environment.

Hearing such stories is a sobering reminder of how much more needs to be done to ensure that fair policies become mainstream and that no employee falls between the cracks of such poor practices.


Starting the conversation by educating managers


So now that we’ve identified how important it is that a company looks after employees who are starting or building their families, what’s next?

What kinds of things does a company, small or large, need to do to improve their practices and ensure that these employees feel safe, encouraged and supported?

To gain some insight into this subject, I reached out to Valeria Ignatieva, trailblazing co-founder of WORK180, who was happy to share some guidance for companies who are unsure whether their practices were up to scratch.

“A huge part of dealing with this issue is by educating businesses about what starting a family is all about,” Ignatieva told The Pulse.

“Many of these companies have managers or supervisors who don’t know the first thing about pregnancy.

If we continuously strive to educate ourselves and others on the topic, we will eventually get to where we need to be.”


Keep the rules gender-neutral


When talking about the idea of childbirth and family building, the spotlight tends to fall on women.

But Ignatieva outlined the importance of remaining gender neutral, keeping in mind that “primary care-giving is not gender specific” and therefore anybody involved in the care- giving process requires the understanding of their employers.


Running a HR policy ‘health-check’


One of the tools that WORK180 has developed is an HR ‘health-check’ tool, a questionnaire that’s designed to learn about a company’s policies and procedures and give a score on the standard of the company’s HR policies.

According to Ignatieva, there are three policies in particular that are indicative of a company’s standards:

1. Superannuation

Unlike regular annual leave, Ignatieva said that there is no legal requirement for super to be paid to employees on parental leave. But, if an employer includes super in their parental leave packages, it’s normally a good indication that their policies are up to scratch in this area.

2. Pre-parental leave tenure

Another important policy to look at is the amount of time an employee is required to have worked at an organisation before they are ‘eligible’ for parental leave.

According to Ignatieva, organisations that don’t require their employees to spend a certain amount of time in the job to access paid parental leave to have “exemplary standards” in this regard.

“By keeping this standard, it shows that the employer understands that having or building a family isn’t an inconvenience, but an asset to society and something to be encouraged,” Ignatieva said.

Global software giant Microsoft leads by example in this area, making parental leave an entitlement upon employment.

3. Flexible working policies (pre- and post-natal)

Finally, the flexible working policies are another key indication of high standards.

Aside from being very helpful for those involved in the emotional and physical process of both the lead up to and time after birth, Ignatieva insisted that flexible working arrangements are beneficial for the employers as well.

“If you let them work the way they work best, you’ll get better results,” said Ignatieva.

“By forcing people in the perinatal period into restrictive working environments, they are almost guaranteed to underperform.”

READ: How flexible working arrangements can improve your business

Ultimately, it all comes down to attitude.

Nurturing employees who require support throughout the childbirth process doesn’t only improve your business standards, but it also makes you an enabler of the next generation’s ability to catapult into a safe and successful future.

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