6 Ways Your Company Can Support Working Parents

Companies looking to recruit and retain talented employees know that many workers have another very important job: being a mom or dad. As businesses modernize, offering perks and benefits to working parents has become more and more commonplace.

Here are six ways your business can show support for working parents:

1. Offer Paid Parental Leave

The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 allows parents to go on maternity or family leave after a child is born or adopted. This offers parents up to 12 weeks of job protection, but there is no federal requirement to pay workers during this time.

While the U.S. does not guarantee paid parental leave, many companies, understand just how stressful and challenging unpaid leave is for new families. These organizations have implemented their own paid parental leave policies. Companies like Facebook offers employees 16 weeks of paid leave, American Express offers 20 weeks and Netflix offers a whopping 52 weeks.

While smaller businesses may struggle to offer paid leave, even the leanest of startups have taken note of the very positive trend by implementing some sort of policy.

2. Allow Flexible Work Hours

From stomach bugs to science fairs, working parents have tons of tasks, responsibilities, and events that inevitably bleed into a regular 9-to-5 schedule. You can better accommodate the moms and dads at your company by happily allowing these employees to flex their hours when needed.

This doesn’t mean your employees will stop working a traditional 40-hour work week. Some working parents just need a schedule that’s a bit different from regular office hours. If an employee wants to drop his children off at school every morning, he may request to flex his hours to 10am to 6pm. If your company can accommodate his needs, then why not say yes?

3. Recognize and Respect Dads

If your parental leave policy is all about mom, you may want to give some attention to the working fathers in your office, too. Paternal leave helps lessen the “motherhood penalty” women experience when they leave work to care for a new child. It’s also, of course, just as important for dads to bond with new babies as it is for moms.

If your company is striving to support, encourage, and promote equality in the workplace, supporting new dads is a great way to prove that commitment.

4. Consider a More Gradual Return from Leave

There are countless anecdotes about new parents returning to work after a few months of parental leave only to feel completely overwhelmed on their first days back at the office. The transition from new parent to parent-on-leave to working parent is a delicate, stressful, and emotional one. The more you can do to support your employees during this time, the more likely they are to succeed in their return to work.

Many companies are allowing their employees to gradually return to work following parental leave. If possible, you could consider offering intermittent leave and reduced leave schedules when requested. This means employees will take some of their parental leave at once, then use the rest intermittently, perhaps working only three days a week until their leave runs out.

A gradual return to work allows new parents to get comfortable with the realities of juggling work and family. If your goal is to support and retain talent, making this transition as smooth as possible for them isn’t just a kind thing to do, but a wise one.

5. Offer Child Care Assistance

Childcare is extremely expensive in the United States, and paying for it can be a real source of stress for parents. The average cost of childcare is nearly $10,000 a year, per child—and it’s way more than that in expensive cities like New York and Los Angeles.

Not every company can provide on-site, free childcare for its employees, and that’s okay. Whether your business is small, medium, or large, there’s always a way to show support for working parents. A dependent care assistance program (DCAP) lets employees deduct some childcare expenses from their paychecks before taxes. Your company can also offer a childcare subsidy to working parents. Or, your business can set up a referral program with a local daycare: you encourage parents to send their children to a certain facility, and in turn, the facility extends your employees a discount.

6. Provide Tons of Support

When it comes to being a working parent, two things tend to matter most: moments and money. Parents don’t want to miss out on all the good stuff, but they’re under more pressure than ever to contribute financially. All of this can be quite stressful on your employees.

Yes, flexibility and finances rule, but working parents also need support. Some companies are offering coaching to new parents to help them achieve an ideal work-life balance. Other companies are creating support groups within their organizations, like General Mills’ adoption support group. Simply creating a monthly lunch meeting for working parents to mix and mingle can create new, positive interoffice relationships that are good for your employees and good for business.

While most businesses won’t be able to do everything on this list, making an effort to support working parents whenever possible is a tremendous goal that many companies are now making a major priority. Having attractive, flexible, and supportive work conditions for parents will help you recruit, retain, and reward great employees for years to come.