Posted by Robert Drewell on 02 December 2022
Why employers should consider offering family-related benefits to their workforce
Over the past few years and certainly throughout the pandemic, companies have started to become more aware of the challenges faced by working parents. Many employers now have a greater awareness and understanding in this area and have started to place a strong emphasis on doing right by their employees by offering valuable family-related benefits. It is now commonplace to offer these types of benefits through enhanced policy arrangements, with many businesses following best practice approaches set by leading companies.
However, to truly differentiate in the marketplace and to support, retain and attract talent, employers may need to get even more creative. By keeping open communication channels with our people, we can continue to listen and learn, understanding the challenges faced, and offer much-needed help and support, especially in these tough times. That may also mean looking for family-related solutions to help people bridge the gap between work and home life challenges.
Before looking at additional benefits there are some considerations, not least the subject of affordability and sustainability, and how it may look if a company makes this kind of offer only to retract it later. There is also the potential for some employees to lose tax credits, and for others - single or non-parent employees – to feel alienated by this kind of ‘inclusive’ measure. These concerns are worth raising and can be mitigated in most cases by first building a solid understanding of your workforce demographic.
The inclusive employer
On a practical level, we all know that since the pandemic work models and environments have changed to accommodate more remote and hybrid working. It therefore follows logically that companies need to consider how they can offer a flexibility in benefits that better balances work and family life.
On a more holistic level, by offering family-related benefits a company can also position itself as a more far-sighted, inclusive employer. Being inclusive - and being seen to be inclusive - is increasingly important in the modern market with an ever-sharper focus on equality, transparency, and fairness.
Whereas in the past, companies established a set of benefits irrespective of its workforce demographic, these days there’s a far greater emphasis on understanding a workforce first. By segmenting those staff into different groups, a company can then build a stronger picture of its people, grasp what their needs might be, and deliver something of greater value to them, and potentially also their family.
Shift towards gender-neutral policy
Another modern challenge to traditional thinking has been a move towards gender-neutrality, notably a push beyond the limits of traditional maternity and paternity policy. By challenging long-held perceptions of ‘family’, companies are setting themselves up to be more inclusive and accessible, and giving themselves a better chance of attracting and retaining talent.
Not only does this more modern outlook promote flexible thinking, in practical terms it also increases the likelihood of a parent returning to work after parental leave and creates more options when it comes to balancing work with family-related commitments. That might mean new opportunities or greater support around domestic care, or allowances for parental or grandparental responsibility. Either way, only by looking carefully at its workforce can a company tailor an approach that works and create something of value for its workers.
Finally, whether employers want to admit it or not, workers now have a bigger voice than they used to, and their viewpoint counts for more than it did. The old ‘us and them’ mentality of yesteryear has made way for a more collaborative, open-book approach where workers can input into policy and expect a two-way process.
Many companies are now set up in a more transparent way to make this work, with dedicated open communication channels designed to enable dialogue. Information can flow far easier between employer and employee and colleagues can share ideas, thoughts, and concerns. It is only logical that this prevailing sense of partnership and collaboration should be reflected in the way companies acknowledge and support their workers’ lives at home.
These are tough times. On top of the pandemic, inflation and interest rates are putting a squeeze on workers up and down the country. A company is not there to shield its employees from the cost-of-living crisis – that is the role of government – but there is a balance to be found, and a sensible point to which we can go to find tangible measures that support our workers. Where that point is, may be different for every company.