On being a family friendly workplace …


The Global Day of Parents is observed on the 1st of June every year. Here, Emma Walsh, CEO of Parents at Work, talks about what it means for an organisation to be truly family friendly … 

Being a family friendly workplace is fundamentally more than offering simple flexibility around family commitments – it’s goes to the heart of an organisation’s culture and the value it places on performance, wellbeing and inclusion. It’s about enabling people to reconcile work and life responsibilities by addressing systemic cultural and gender bias challenges that stifle productivity, engagement and equality in the workplace. 

Family Friendly Workplaces strive to reduce the tension that exists between work and family by embedding and promoting policies and practices that genuinely support employees to thrive at work and at home.  

Critically, there are layers, which together form a strong basis for embedded family focus as an organisational cultural norm; each layer alone, is insufficient in delivering sustainable support for families. Being Family Friendly means integrating equal and inclusive policy with congruent leader-enabled practices and making these policies and practices known and accessible throughout the organisation. Finally, measuring the effectiveness of what is offered thereby creating a living cycle of review, means that rather than remaining stagnant, organisations can grow and develop as a direct result of feedback from the people who matter most.  

It is important to acknowledge that family is relevant to all employees; we are all part of a family; someone’s child, and in various ways, we are all involved in the care of significant people. No longer is family viewed in the nuclear, gender-normed sense. Men, women and non-binary people, should have the right and ability to take care of the people in their lives. When we target the pay gap, or women in leadership, or career transition, we need to understand that to enable these things, caring and flexibility must be normalised regardless of gender. If we want to address these issues, mothers, fathers and carers need to have access to discrimination free leave, and uninterrupted career progression.  

There is an abundance of research supporting the effectiveness of the 4 day working week for example, of flexible working platforms, of output focused management. Even more on the link between wellbeing and productivity. As we decrease the delineation between work and home life, it will become more vital for leaders to be able manage the blended nature of when, how and where we perform our job alongside the rest of life commitments.  It is an opportunity for businesses to rethink how work is achieved to maximise a return to both the employee and the organisation.  

We are urging businesses to review the national work + family standards and revisit their workplace flexibility, parental leave, caring and wellbeing, family and domestic violence policies to ensure they’re fit for purpose post Covid.  To ensure these policies are supported by practices that facilitate the ability to deliver on their intended purpose to all employees, regardless of gender.  Critically, holding leaders accountable for embedding these policies and practices and measuring the impact.  Finally, to promote these policies and practices to signal to employees it’s safe and encouraged to use them.  

For more on what your business can do to be a family friendly workplace, visit www.familyfriendlyworkplaces.com 

Related DCA resources: Let’s share the care