Victoria Brocklesby, COO and Co-Founder at Origin, the UK’s leading manufacturer of doors and windows, speaks to us about the benefits of welcoming returning parents back into the workforce and discusses how UK businesses can better support them in making this move.
In my experience, when supported in the right way, parents returning to work after an extended period of time away, can become the most loyal employees, who come back with a new drive, better time management skills and a greater ability to focus on the job in hand.
However, according to a recent survey by Workingmums, one quarter of mothers work full-time with no flexibility. Over half fear that their flexible working will be taken away, 15 percent of those currently on maternity leave have been turned down for flexible working, while nearly half feel that having children has held them back in their career. So, it appears that despite the overriding benefits, UK businesses are still falling short when it comes to supporting parents.
Helping parents settle back into work and making them feel like they belong in this environment needs to be prioritised among UK business owners if we’re to build a much happier, more fulfilled workforce. As a family business, Origin works hard to create a culture of inclusivity, family, kindness and trust. It’s at the heart of everything we do and has enabled us to grow into the thriving business we are today.
Nurture an Internal Culture Shift
It is important that a senior leadership team creates an internal company culture that celebrates the successes, milestones and achievements of its employees, both in their professional and personal lives. Make sure the process is enjoyable from the moment they disclose that they, or their partner, is expecting a baby. Celebrate this announcement like it was a member of your family, because they are part of your work family. Make sure you offer them regular reassurance and keep the lines of communication open at all times. We do a work assessment to make sure pregnant employees aren’t overstretched and that they are comfortable within the workplace.
Both starting and growing a family increases emotional, mental and financial pressure, so support during this time will only serve to strengthen the employee/employer loyalty.
Fear of the unknown can cause a significant amount of stress for those taking time off, particularly for mothers on maternity leave. By being clear on what returning to work looks like for them, you’ll automatically reduce anxiety levels and ensure they can hit the ground running when they decide to return.
Stay in Touch
As any parent will know, going from a busy work environment to staying at home with children is a culture shock, and often a lonely time. Being away from the office can lead to a dip in confidence, causing doubts over their skillsets and leave them feeling out of touch. Make sure employees still feel part of the team by offering them the opportunity to return for occasional keep in touch days. This not only helps the returning parent, but also helps the team appreciate the situation a little better.
Also, if they’re happy for you to do so, drop them a line from time to time, just to have a friendly and informal chat. This doesn’t entail any pressing questions about their situation or when they’re coming back to work. It is about keeping them engaged and to let them know they have people outside of the NCT circle that cares about them.
By adopting a more flexible, family friendly approach, businesses will attract and retain their very best talent. Over 62 percent of women have considered setting up their business after having a baby, purely down to the fact it would offer them more flexibility.
So, by offering more flexibility with your working hours and being more understanding when it comes to parents needing to take holiday days at incredibly short notice to deal with sick children, you will be better able to attract candidates over the competition, and mould them into employees that will stay and succeed in the role.
Mind the Gap
Men in full time employment are still paid, on average, nine percent more than women, according to the Office of National Statistics. While the Gender Pay Gap edges closer to zero for the younger generations, there is a substantial disparity among over 40’s. This is because many women have left work to start a family. The gender divide starts to creep in when women return to work.
It has been proven that women are less likely to negotiate their pay, so it is important for businesses to be transparent about the salary ranges on offer and actively encourage all employees to negotiate their wage based on skill, experience and performance.
Be open about processes, policies and criteria for hiring and promotion. Decisions are then always based on objectives and evidence, rather than gender. This will help ensure the salaries of women more closely match those of men.
Businesses that do not nurture the relationship with returning parents are missing out on a type of employee unlike any other. The skills and life lessons that these parents have learned whilst away from the workplace are irreplaceable and offer intangible benefits to their companies. By shifting company culture to be more understanding and flexible towards their needs, UK businesses can expect to build a more loyal and diverse workforce and attract and retain the very best talent.
About the Author
Victoria Brocklesby co-founded Origin, the UK’s leading manufacturer of windows and doors, in 2002 alongside Neil Ginger and is a key driving force behind Origin’s extensive growth and its deep investment in its people. Despite rapid expansion, the business has retained strong family values under her direction, particularly within its internal employee culture.