Company Culture

How HR Teams Can Support Working Parents

May 11, 2020
November 7, 2023
Andy Przystanski
Lattice Team

Imagine juggling the hardest job in the world with a nine-to-five. According to U.S. census data, nearly half of households are doing just that.

Working parents report feeling more stressed, tired, and rushed than their colleagues — and the data backs that up. But in addition to making up a sizeable chunk of the workforce, these employees bring unique perspectives to the table, making them a critical part of your talent strategy and diversity and inclusion goals.

So what can HR teams do to help lighten the load for working parents and make them feel included? Here are a few strategies to consider.

1. Get a baseline from survey data.

From measuring eNPS to belonging, employee surveys can be used to track sentiment in a few different ways. While company-wide metrics can give you a gut check as to how your workforce is feeling as a whole, look at specific cross-sections for more telling insights.

If you’re already looking at engagement by ethnicity, age, or other demographics, consider adding another data point to the mix: family status. If your employee survey tool supports custom fields, report on how parents’ scores compare to other workers’. Using software like Lattice, you can even identify outliers in specific offices or departments.

Running surveys can help you diagnose problems, identify solutions, and even grade past initiatives. Look at historical data to see whether a new perk or offering has made a difference. Employee feedback will help you pivot or fine-tune your HR programs. For more examples of how to respond to employee feedback, read our ebook on engagement survey action planning

2. Make flexibility a workplace norm.

Over the last decade, the advice has been to offer employees more, not less flexibility — whether in respect to their scheduling or physical location. But though up to 96% of workers say they want flexibility, less than half actually have it. And arguably no segment of the workforce needs it more than parents.

Raising a family doesn’t lend itself to predictable scheduling. Snow days, softball games, and surprise calls from the school nurse might require parents to stay home or sign off early. Now, school cancelations during the COVID-19 outbreak have given most companies a crash course in how important it is to offer that flexibility. If employees’ jobs can be done remotely, managers should allow them to stay home. If the nature of the job doesn’t allow for remote work, consider offering other forms of leave or flexible time off so employees can accommodate family obligations.

Offering flexibility also makes good business sense. While flexibility isn’t a “benefit” in a traditional sense like health or dental insurance are, employees consider it just as valuable. According to one survey, working parents even ranked greater flexibility over higher salaries. Chane Steiner, CEO of Crediful, has seen that dynamic play out firsthand at his company.

“Employees end up saving money on transportation, childcare, and any number of other costs involved with a typical nine-to-five job. Flexibility can even convince employees to stay because they look at it as part of their benefits package. Maybe the pay isn't higher, but the overall benefits make it worthwhile in the end,” Steiner said.

3. Offer paid parental leave.

Offering paid leave for new mothers and fathers isn’t just considered best practice, in some jurisdictions, it’s a legal requirement. States including California, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island all mandate paid leave. Austin, New York City, San Francisco, Seattle, and 15 other major cities also have paid family leave programs.

So how much time should companies offer? While there isn’t a “magic number” that works for every organization, consider offering at least 12 weeks of paid leave to both full-time and part-time employees. Not only will this number keep you in compliance with most state and local laws, but it’ll also give employees flexibility if they need more time. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, the average maternity leave lasts 10 weeks. If you want to set yourself apart from the competition, consider offering even more generous benefits. Companies including Alphabet, Facebook, Square, and Zendesk offer as much as 18 weeks of paid leave.

Some companies even allow employees to return in phases. “In our office, there is a flexible arrangement of ‘gradual return’ for the employees,” said John Steeve, an HR Manager at Brandnic. Since implementing the policy four years ago, Steeve noticed a dip in turnover among new parents. “It’s given them a balance between their work and any major event in their life,” he said.

4. Make employee perks inclusive.

Come open enrollment season, HR teams spend weeks laboring over how to make their benefits and total rewards packages generous as possible. Ensuring that they’re inclusive is just as important. In addition to popular perks like gym discounts and tuition reimbursement, consider including a few that cater specifically to working parents with both younger and adolescent children.

Today, HR teams can implement a few perks that directly and indirectly support working parents, including:

  • Adoption assistance 
  • Back-to-school stipends
  • Baby cash” cash payments for parents of newborns
  • Childcare stipends
  • Entertainment discounts
  • Experiential incentives and gifts
  • Fertility benefits
  • Financial wellness programs
  • Contributions to 529 college savings plans 
  • Maternity concierge services
  • Sabbatical leave for tenured employees

In addition to offering some of the above perks, continue encouraging employees to leverage your employee assistance program (EAP). Though the vast majority of U.S. companies offer these free counseling services, just 7% of employees actually leverage them. Working parents are asked to shoulder a lot — and could probably use a reminder that the services are there and completely confidential. Spend an upcoming company all-hands reminding your workforce of the free benefit and how to use it.

While some companies go as far as to fly nannies cross-country for their employees, you don’t need lavish perks to make a difference. Oftentimes, it’s just a matter of how you position your existing programs. If part of your employee experience includes regular team offsites or happy hours, make sure they’re inclusive of parents and those with family obligations at home. That might mean starting events earlier in the day, or if appropriate (and not in the midst of a pandemic) welcoming families onsite. 

Working parents account for a major share of the U.S. workforce (and likely, your company), making it critical that HR teams keep them in mind when tracking engagement. To learn how Lattice makes it easy to filter employee survey results by demographics and other custom fields, schedule a demo.