How can childcare be used as an employee benefit?
When new parents return to work it can be hard for them to cope with the transition, but it can be equally hard for you to deal with their new priorities.
Many firms take a healthy view that maintaining key workers through child-related and parental incentives help retain their key people. If you have invested in the development and education of your best people the most cost effective thing to do is not to lose them
So what can you do, or offer, to make sure you keep your new working parents motivated and your business in good shape?
Keeping working parents happy
Family-friendly policies and benefits have been an increasing part of the UK employment agenda for several years.
What began with a woman’s right to return to work after having a baby has spread to encompass the rights of fathers to spend time with their children and for workers as a whole to enjoy a better work-life balance.
There’s no doubt about it, when your key workers become parents, it requires a fair degree of give and take to make the new situation work. Many employers have arrangements in place with working parents on an informal basis (perhaps letting them leave early during summer holidays or work from home when their child is sick) but it’s not yet common practice.
Much of it comes down to line managers and how an organisation works. The problem with informal practices is that they’re not always consistent.
One of the common new-parent problems can simply boil down to extra cash, and a child care voucher scheme could be one answer to stop your workers leaving for higher pay.
And it doesn’t just have to be childcare that is subsidised. Vouchers and benefit from a wide range of discounts on childcare-related products, including children’s clothing, pushchairs, car seats, toys, games and educational material. They also cover the financial cost of raising children, including special days out for all the family and access to support services dealing with all aspects of parenting.
Such a scheme can be tailored to your company, to meet its needs and match its branding.
There are plenty of more traditional schemes that give a degree of financial support and time flexibility to working parents.
Flexible benefits allow employees to choose how a proportion of their salary is paid, possibly in exchange for a car, additional holiday, a shorter working week or other similar benefits. This can also work in reverse, giving them the chance to give up benefits for additional cash remuneration.
Offering child care in the workplace can also form a highly satisfactory arrangement and mark your company down as family friendly. An onsite nursery may seem like a whole world of trouble, but if it allows you to keep your staff in the office rather than having to leave at 3pm every day to pick up their kids then it could have some long-term benefits.
Promoting the policy
Of course, proving the legal minimum benefits is a good starting point, but there is nothing to say where you have to stop, in a competitive environment you could and should go further.
Working parents comprise a significant proportion of the workforce so marking yourself out as a progressive employer able to acknowledge the distinct needs of working parents means you can reach out to the widest pool of talent possible. Advertise your business and your policies to working mums using current employees for testimonials.
Make your current workforce aware of what you have to offer by producing packs outlining the benefits to newly expecting employees. Be as supportive as possible during the period of pregnancy and they will be likely to repay your faith by coming back to work motivated to perform, for the good of themselves and the new addition to their family.