Article: Family friendliness at Organisations: A good option?

Diversity

Family friendliness at Organisations: A good option?

Providing family friendly workplace practices is not about giving employees whatever they want, whenever they want. Its about recognising the shift in attitudes to work (work to live, not live to work) and that employees have a life outside of work.
Family friendliness at Organisations: A good option?

Smart companies know that keeping employees happy — in and out of the workplace — translates to business success. Many are now focusing on creating family-friendly programs and a company culture that allows for better work-life balance, including flexible schedules and generous family-leave policies.

Becoming an employer of choice is the goal of many organizations.  One way to get the competitive edge is to be considered a family friendly organization. The return on investment is a happier, more loyal employee. A family-friendly workplace or employer is one whose policies make it possible for employees to more easily balance family and work, and to fulfil both their family and work obligations.

While this definition often applies to government, a major employer, as well, government has another function in promoting family-friendly policies. Many of the family-friendly policies of government are those laws, regulations, and social policies that recognize the importance of families to society, and act to meet, directly or indirectly, the needs of children, parents, disabled family members, and the oldest generation. There is much evidence that employers who provide their employees with some support mechanisms, such as benefits to help them cope with the demands of their non work lives, build loyally and enhanced commitment. Many employers have attempted to become more family friendly in recent years and have developed policies.

Nurturing Family friendly workplace:

Day Care: Finding quality day care is often a very difficult and time-consuming task for parents. Providing either on-site care for children or at least close proximity will help. 

Elder Care: Caring for elderly relatives is becoming more of a concern for many employees today. Provide resources to make the search for quality care more efficient.

Sponsor Family Activities: Have a picnic that provides activities for all ages, organize an outing to a sporting event or a trip to the zoo, have a talent contest, encourage employees to involve spouses and children in organizational community volunteer activity.

Concierge Program:  This is becoming a popular benefit with many employees.  It doesn't necessarily fall under "family friendly" but it certainly can.  This is a very flexible option.  Employers can offer employees discounted dinners, hotel rooms, vacations or movies. 

Lactation room: Providing this service is really a win- win situation. Minimally, an organisation can provide a small room with a lock, an electrical outlet and a comfortable chair.

Flex-time: For employees with family obligations, control of their time may be the most valuable benefit an employer can give. Flex-time - a flexible work schedule - allows people to choose when they work, as long as they put in their hours every week.

Maternity/paternity leave: Part of an employee benefit package may be paid or unpaid leave for the birth, adoption, or acceptance of the foster placement of a child.

Companies leading the way:

Wyeth (Pharmaceutical and health-care company): Wyeth provides eight weeks of time-off with full pay for childbirth and then an additional week with pay for newborn care. The company offers a variety of programs and services for new or expectant parents, including a company intranet with detailed information about leave and benefit plans; a lactation program and private lactation rooms; and life-management resources that provide confidential assistance in a variety of areas including family caregiving.

Microsoft (Computer software and services developer): Parents are eligible to take up to 12 weeks of Parental Leave to care for a newborn, newly adopted or recently placed foster child. All employees, have the opportunity to work from home or remotely and create a flexible schedule that allows them to make their own hours. Job sharing is also an option.

EY: Six weeks of fully paid parental leave to the primary caregiver (male or female) and two week of fully paid leave for the secondary caregiver for either a biological child or an adopted child. Approximately 10 percent of Ernst & Young's 27,000 U.S. employees use flex time. It provides full benefits for any employee working at least 20 hours per week and has instituted employee resources such as concierge services and EY Assist, a resource and referral program.

Benefits an organisation can offer to enhance its reputation as a family-friendly employer include emergency childcare, school holiday clubs, nursery discounts and travel insurance for family holidays, as well as childcare vouchers and flexible working arrangements. Atkins, Barclays, Danone and Royal Mail Group were among the employers recognised as family-friendly in the Workingmums.co.uk Top Employer Awards in December 2013. The organisations were recognised for embracing the business benefits of flexible working and being proactive in creating a family-friendly workplace. 

Why promote Family-friendly policies:

  • They allow more choices as making it possible for employees to exercise control over their lives.
  • It allows them to spend more time with their families.
  • It reduces stress and coping with difficult medical issue.
  • Employees who take advantage of such policies are more productive.
  • It help Employers to keep valuable employees.
  • Such employers have more to offer to new job candidates and are thus able to recruit the best talent.


In addition to its employer role, government may encourage a family-friendly society by adopting laws, regulations, and social policies that recognize the importance of families to society, and act to meet, directly or indirectly, the needs of children, parents, and the oldest generation. The best promoters of family-friendly policies are those who have both the knowledge and credibility to make the argument for them. These include business people who have adopted such policies themselves and had good results; politicians and other policy makers who've examined the issue; working families and those affiliated with them (labor unions, e.g.); interested influential citizens; the media; or a broad-based coalition including most or all of these groups as members.

Providing family friendly workplace practices is not about giving employees whatever they want, whenever they want. It’s about recognising the shift in attitudes to work (work to live, not live to work) and that employees have a life outside of work. Of course, the level and types of family friendly workplace practices offered will depend on a number of things, such as the employee’s role and whether the organisation has enough resource to support flexible work options. But there is no reason why organisations can’t review their current policies – and consider new initiatives – with recognition of the need for work-life balance, and the need for some to prioritise their family.

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Topics: Diversity, Employee Engagement

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