6 Ways to Create an Inclusive Workplace for Parents

For many professionals, life is a juggling act between work and family obligations, and companies are realizing that creating an inclusive workplace for parents and guardians helps their bottom line.

Working mothers comprise about one-third of all women in the workforce, for example. And of the 83.8 million families in the United States, 80 percent have at least one parent employed full-time.

Studies consistently show that happy workers outperform their peers, making the employee happiness rate a critical indicator of an organization’s health and sustainability. For parents, workplace benefits that make their lives easier to manage improve morale and boost productivity.

What is a Parent-Inclusive Workplace?

Employers can create an inclusive workplace for parents in a number of different ways. Benefits that make it easier for busy parents to excel at their jobs range from flexible work schedules to childcare assistance. Here are some of policies that contribute to a family-friendly workplace.

Flexible work arrangements

Flexible work arrangements can benefit the entire workforce, but for parents, flexible work arrangements allow them to structure their work hours to fit their parenting responsibilities.

In KinderCare’s 2022 report, 69 percent of working parents said flexible work schedules enabled them to be more involved in their children’s lives. Greater control over their schedule and hybrid work options has many benefits. For parents, their quality of life and more time with their children top the list.

Family Care Benefits

The childcare crisis remains unresolved. According to Motherly’s 2022 survey, 17,000 women found that childcare issues were the number one reason mothers changed or left jobs in 2021.

The same survey discovered a deep dissatisfaction with the current childcare situation. 59 percent of Millennial and Gen Z mothers who work full-time said they are dissatisfied or very dissatisfied with their childcare options.

Childcare presents a risk of unknowns. Parents worry about finding safe and reliable options. It’s also a significant financial burden. Many report paying as much as half of their take-home pay for childcare. These stressors can burden parents and detract from their ability to perform their best work.

Dependent care assistance programs, on-site childcare, or childcare reimbursement programs may help relieve working parents’ biggest burden. It signals you are willing to go above and beyond to ensure your employees and their families have the support they need to succeed at work.

Lactation Rooms

Providing a secure and comfortable environment where a lactating parent can nurse or pump milk has the effect of lowering stress levels and enhancing employee contentment. Lactation facilities empower lactating parents to sustain breastfeeding even upon resuming work, a crucial aspect of fostering a strong parent-child bond. It helps eliminate the emotional dilemma of selecting between their profession and breastfeeding.

One study even found that the quality of the lactation room has a notable impact on the lactating parent’s well-being and how supported they feel by their employer.

Return-to-work programs

Return-to-work (RTW) programs support a parent-inclusive workplace, and they also benefit any employee who had to take time away from work due to injury, health issues, family emergencies, or any other reason.

RTW programs help employers:

  • Retain experienced and valued employees
  • Reduce turnover and hiring costs
  • Improve productivity
  • Demonstrate to employees that you value them and their contribution

For workers, RTW programs:

  • Improve morale
  • Bridge important life transitions
  • Maintain continuity and skills
  • Maintain workplace social connections

Inclusive Parental Leave Policies

Paid parental leave allows parents to take time off from work to bond with their new child without worrying about losing their job. Business leaders are expanding parental leave to include working parents of any gender as well as caregivers and adoptive parents, providing them with adequate paid time off.

Nearly 30 percent of new mothers without paid family leave dropped out of the workforce within a year of giving birth. Twenty percent of those women did not return for over 10 years. On the other hand, companies that offer family leave benefits saw almost identical workforce participation between mothers with young children and women with no or grown children.

A parental leave policy is only truly beneficial if workers are not penalized or stigmatized for using it. Fathers who can take parental leave experience better financial stability, improved relationships with their partners, and significantly fewer partners experiencing post-partum depression.

Empathy, Recognition, and Open Communication

Respect, trust, and empathy are the bedrock of an inclusive workplace. Over 40 percent of parents report they feel the need to hide their parental obligations from their employers for fear they might negatively impact their careers. This includes utilizing benefits offered by employers, such as flexible work arrangements.

Beyond offering workplace benefits, leaders need to foster a psychologically safe workplace. Open communication and clearly defined policies help parents and others understand their employer’s expectations and level of support, resolving confusion and apprehension.

The Cost of Disregarding Parents’ Needs

A parent’s experience at work can impact their children, and their ability to meet parenting obligations affects their ability to perform at work. Businesses that disregard parents’ needs hurt their bottom line.

Childcare is expensive, and many employees struggle to find reasonable childcare or spend a significant portion of their income to cover childcare costs. In today’s competitive employment market, family benefits (like parental leave, remote work options, and childcare programs or credits) can be the deciding factor in attracting and retaining top talent.

Advantages of Creating an Inclusive Workplace for Parents and Guardians

Research shows creating a parent-inclusive workplace benefits employers in all of the following ways:

  • 94 percent of companies with flexible work arrangements reported higher employee satisfaction
  • 92 percent of top-rated employers offer remote work or flexibility
  • 91 percent of top-rated larger companies offer paid maternity and paternity leave

When parents are happy and engaged at work, they are more likely to be productive. Workplace benefits for parents reduce stress and increase peace of mind.

Addressing parents’ needs also reduces absenteeism. Instead of being forced to choose between work and family, parents can arrange their schedules to balance both harmoniously. This reduction in stress improves family relationships and employee health.

A Parent-Inclusive Workplace is a Win-Win

Workplace benefits for parents create a more supportive, inclusive, and culture-oriented workplace for all employees. Parents who know their company supports them are more likely and able to be happy and engaged at work. In this way, the benefits of supporting working parents ripple out through an organization and into the fabric of society itself.