Compared with previous decades, companies today are doing more to support their employees who are starting new families. However, there's still more to be done. According to Bright Horizons, 59 percent of surveyed employees report missing three to 10 days of work due to inadequate child care options. As a result, U.S. companies miss out on more than $5 billion in unrealized revenue.
Here are five ways companies can better support new parents at work:
1. Extend the parental support period
In the U.S., the Family and Medical Leave Act allows parents to take up to 12 weeks off after the birth of a child. The law does not require companies to pay parents during this leave. Additionally, companies with fewer than 50 employees are exempt from the law entirely.
Although the majority of companies do not see significant turnover immediately following a parent's return to work, some have found that retention rates drop after 12 to 18 months. According to Harvard Business Review contributor Daisy Wademan Dowling, HR leaders should consider holding check-ins with parents after nine and 12 months to see how the employees have adjusted. These meetings bring value to the organization by preemptively addressing employee concerns, thereby reducing the likelihood of costly turnover.
2. Make leave time flexible
Rather than offering parental leave as a solid block of days, some companies are making their programs more flexible by allowing parents to choose when they return to work. For example, it can be difficult to transition back to a full workload. Flexible programs give employees the option to create a ramp-up period, much like when a new employee is hired.
Similarly, some organizations offer new parents greater flexibility to telecommute. The ability to work from home several days a week not only reduces employee stress, but also the financial burden of childcare.
"Offering flexibility to both parents is of the utmost importance," remarks Cindy Eidnes, Division Director of Beacon Hill's Legal Division in Minneapolis. "More and more, I have seen law firms and corporate legal departments in our market encouraging both parents to take time off for parental leave, which allows them to spend time together as a family, but also eases both of their transitions back into the workforce when the time comes."
3. Consider a mentorship program
Organizations have found value in mentorship programs that pair experienced employees with new hires. The idea is that employees have a better understanding of the daily tasks associated with a position, and are therefore better equipped to provide actionable guidance.
CNN reported that professional services firm PwC has implemented a similar strategy within its parental leave policy. The organization uses a volunteer system to pair working parents with new moms and dads. The experienced working parents can offer advice on how to balance the responsibilities of child rearing and career advancement.
4. Offer on-site child care
Many large organizations offer on-site child care services for when other accommodations are unavailable. For example, outdoor clothing company Patagonia has been offering this service since 1983 with great success. The company employs teachers and child-care attendants to look after young children while their parents work. Since adopting this program, nearly 100 percent of new moms return to work at Patagonia, a significant improvement over the national average, which hovers between 75 and 80 percent.
On-site child care programs can be expensive, but there are tax credits available to offset the costs. A secondary option would be to subsidize some child care expenses like daycare and baby food.
5. Solicit feedback from employees
As with any employee support program, employee feedback is essential. Surveying new parents about their experiences can reveal challenges that may have gone unnoticed during the initial planning phase. By collecting and analyzing program data over time, stakeholders can continually improve performance that not only makes life easier for working parents, but also brings new value to the organization.
Looking for more ways to improve employee retention rates and reduce absenteeism? Speak with an expert consultant from Beacon Hill Staffing Group to learn more.
This content is brought to you by the Marketing Team at Beacon Hill Staffing Group.