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HR | Employment Law | Health & Safety
How To Be A Family Friendly Employer

How To Be A Family Friendly Employer

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Employers that put their staff first, by supporting them in juggling their work/life balance and having family friendly policies, tend to benefit from positive working environments, low employee turnover and high levels of job satisfaction. This in turn can boost productivity and success across the board.

Whilst employees are given employment rights around time off for dependents, maternity, paternity, adoption and child care, there are plenty of additional voluntary benefits and policies that can be offered to create an enhanced family friendly working environment too.

How Can You Support Your Employees?

Part of supporting employees is providing flexible working arrangements and support that enable them to care for their families. Whether it’s an illness, childcare, travel disruption due to school closures or more, you need to understand your workers’ rights to support their families under employment law and consider what you can offer them, in addition, to ensure they can thrive at home and work.

Quite often just taking the time to acknowledge the needs of your workers, being prepared to make allowances, and providing additional support if you can during difficult times, can be enough to help employees feel understood, valued, that their needs are being met, whilst enabling them to continue to meet the demands of the working day too.

Employment Law For Families

Employment Law For Families

Family friendly policies, such as flexible working, parental leave and pay all fall under the umbrella of employment law. The government has set out specific laws to protect families in the workplace that you need to be aware of. These include;

  • Maternity leave and pay – All employees, regardless of the length of employment with their employer, are eligible for Ordinary Maternity Leave (OML), which lasts 26 weeks in total. 2 weeks out of the period must be taken as compulsory maternity leave.
  • Paternity leave and pay – Biological fathers, husbands and civil partners of mothers are entitled to up to 2 weeks of paternity leave within 56 days of the birth of their child. The employee must either take 1 week or 2 consecutive weeks. To qualify for paternity, the father must have worked with his employer for at least 26 weeks ending with the 15th week before the expected week of childbirth.
  • Parental leave – Parents can take up to 18 weeks (per child) of unpaid time off from work for childcare and to ensure the safety of their children; this is provided that the child is below 18 years old and you have been with your employer for at least one year before making a request.
  • Shared parental leave – enables both parents to share the care of their child and any Statutory Shared Parental Pay in the first year of having a baby, using a surrogate to have a baby, adopting a child, or fostering a child that will be adopted.
  • Time off for dependents – In the case of unanticipated circumstances, employees are allotted a fair amount of unpaid leave. This includes times when childcare falls through or if an employee is faced with an emergency – all staff members have access to these benefits regardless of tenure at their company.
  • Flexible working – To be eligible for the right to flexible working, an employee must have been employed without interruption for at least 26 weeks and can only submit one application in any 12 months.
  • Parental bereavement leave and payThe Parental Bereavement (Leave and Pay) Act 2018 has set out the statutory right to two weeks of leave for employees who have suffered the loss of a child under 18, or have had a stillbirth after 24 weeks of pregnancy.
  • Childcare Vouchers – As an employer, you can provide tax-free childcare vouchers to your employees. These are available for children aged up to 16 and are currently set at £55 per week for each employee (and their partner where applicable). They work by allowing employees to exchange a portion of their salary in return for tax-free voucher payments from their employer.

 

Whilst you can’t enforce that employees take these options available to them, it’s important to ensure you provide your employees with the right information and guidance around their rights and how to take up these benefits where appropriate. We recommend including these policies within your employee handbook and/or displaying them on your intranet or shared resources area.

Other Benefits Employers Can Offer

Other Benefits Employers Can Offer

Aside from being aware of your employees family related rights, there are lots of other family friendly benefits and policies that employers can choose to implement to make sure staff feel supported. These include;

  • Topping up Statutory allowances. You can choose to top up the Statutory pay or time off that is set out in the above legislation at your discretion. For example, you may wish to offer 18 months of fully paid maternity leave as standard to enhance the 26 weeks of ordinary maternity leave employees are entitled to.
  • Showing openness and empathy in family conversations is key. Creating a supportive environment where employees can take advantage of flexible working opportunities without worrying about being judged for doing so is key.
  • Provide employee assistance programs. Employers should also consider offering employee assistance programs (EAPs) to provide employees and their families with access to mental health counselling, legal advice and other supportive services. This could also include offering discounted family memberships for gyms and leisure centres as well as providing comprehensive family healthcare insurance and additional support and resources for staff members with children with special educational needs.
  • Creating a culture of more flexible working as a standard meaning that employees can work from home or adjust their hours to suit their commitments outside of submitting official flexible working requests. On top of this, will allow employees to bring their children into the office in an emergency and provide assistance for complex or costly childcare needs such as nursery fees or after-school clubs all go a long way towards being family-friendly.
  • Organising family friendly events. Employers can also create opportunities for their employees and their families to come together by organising family-friendly events such as picnics, movie nights and other fun activities. This helps to build a sense of community and camaraderie among employees as well as encouraging attendance at an event that those with children may not have been able to make.
  • Promote a respectful work environment. It’s important to create a work environment where family-friendly values are respected. This includes having policies in place to protect against discrimination or harassment based on family status and ensuring that all employees are treated with respect and dignity.
  • Flexible holiday options. Consider offering flexible holiday options such as unlimited vacation or rollover days, allowing employees to better manage their work-life balance. Some firms offer an allowance of ‘duvet days’ that can be taken with no questions asked. Having an open and generous policy on all of these things above and beyond Statutory requirements can be instrumental in helping your staff take a well-needed break when they need it to enjoy time with their family or manage the pressures that family life can bring.

Summary

When working to be a family friendly employer, it is important to understand and follow employment law when it comes to supporting families in the workplace, but also make sure you are doing all you can to provide a supportive environment that meets

We will all face family demands on our time at some point in our life. Whether it’s an elderly relative needing care, a sick child, going through an adoption or pregnancy, or any other family related difficulty. As a result, we can all empathise with how far a little support can go in these trying times.

Whilst employers can’t control when these things happen, they can control how they react, and the support they put in place to help their employees when they might need a helping hand managing their work/life commitments. Employers that can do this well can create a workplace that is both family friendly and productive and will be more likely to attract and retain valuable staff, whilst promoting a healthier work-life balance for all in the long run.

If you would like support in reviewing your workplace policies and employee handbook to ensure they are family friendly, or would like to introduce an enhanced employee benefits package, then Neathouse Partners can help.

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