Here’s how employers can support Australia’s working parents

Today, 1 June, is the Global Day of Parents, a day to recognise the pivotal role mothers and fathers play in our families, communities and workplaces. 

In the Australian workforce, about two in five employees are either parents of a child under 15 years or have caring responsibilities, according to data from Australian Bureau of Statistics.

As a significant portion of the paid workforce are juggling careers with caring responsibilities, it is important that workplaces support Australia’s working parents.

Family-friendly workplace policies have been shown to be a key driver of economic growth. A new OECD report shows that, in Nordic countries, these policies have greatly increased growth in GDP per capita by between 10% and 20%. They also helped to reduce gender gaps in employment, as couples are more likely to share paid and unpaid work. 

With these benefits in mind, here are three strategies employers can adopt to help their employees manage their responsibilities at home and at work:

1. Make paid parental leave available to each parent. 
Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) data shows that 46% of Australian employers offer paid primary carer’s leave and 39% offer paid secondary carer’s leave. Research shows that the availability of paid parental leave for each parent fosters a more equal division of unpaid care and paid work, improving the family work-life balance. 

2. Encourage and normalise flexible work arrangements in the workplace. 
Research has demonstrated the benefits of flexible work arrangements for employees and employers alike. Just last week, the UK’s Timewise and Deloitte released a report on how flexible work is reflective of the needs and aspirations of the modern workforce. In Australia, employers are already catching on – WGEA data shows that 68% of employers have a policy or strategy for flexible working. However, our data also shows that less than a quarter provide manager training in flexible working and fewer than 5% have set targets for engagement in flexible working. The next challenge for employers is to take action to embed flexible working arrangements in their workplace cultures.

3. Facilitate successful return to work from parental leave.
Australian company Stockland provides an inspiring case study on supporting parents at work. Stockland has the Parental Transitions program, which includes initiatives such as on-site childcare, keep-in-touch events for those on parental leave and empowering managers to assist employees with their changing needs. WGEA data shows that 52% of employers have measures to support parents, for example return-to-work coaching, breastfeeding facilities and internal support networks for parents.

The Australian Human Rights Commission has a comprehensive step-by-step resource for employers on how to support working parents: Successful Strategies to Support Working Parents