Employers can learn from politicians in their focus on working parents

Andy Philpott

Watching the parties unveil their plans has been like watching a game of poker, with each party going further in their attempts to convince voters they have a winning hand.

The focus on improving childcare provision and the introduction of the controversial Tax-Free Childcare scheme in September this year (something that is curiously absent from the campaigning, perhaps because so many parents will lose out) gives some measure of just how important the role of childcare is for working parents today.

If childcare is a seen as a potential vote winner that can win over the electorate by politicians, then it makes sense for any organisation who wants to win and keep the best talent to think a lot harder about how they support working parents.

Rather than thinking about what any future government might do, there is plenty employers can do today in this area.

The first thing to think about is the extent to which you understand what the working parents in your organisation need.

When we talk to HR teams and benefits managers, it is striking how few know the number of working parents in their organisation. Without this information, it is hard to see how you can deliver, let alone improve, what you offer them.

A second area is asking what would make a difference to working parents.

Could you help sign-post new parents to local childcare choices? Would employees like tailored communication about the benefits available to them when they become parents? Is there an appetite for job shares or compressed or staggered working hours?

None of these are difficult things to offer employees, and your employees may value them highly – but you won’t know unless you ask.

The third thing to think about is who you target with communication around benefits for working parents.

Recent research from PwC showed that women are twice as likely as men to take childcare vouchers. While it is the case that in many families both parents need to work, there are still many families where there is a male bread-winner and, in both instances, more men signing up for childcare vouchers would mean greater savings on childcare.

Finally, and more pressingly, many employers can do more to help their working parents get into a position to choose whether childcare vouchers or Tax-Free Childcare will suit them best when the rules change this autumn – if indeed it launches on time.

Taking this personalised approach to benefits doesn’t just make sense for working parents. Focusing on age or life stage is also the way to deliver more relevant benefits right across the demographics in your workplace. This is good for your employees and good for your organisation.

This article was written by Andy Philpott.