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How to support working parents and carers


Posted on: Wednesday October 13, 2021

by Andrew Walker

National Work Life Week is part of an annual campaign to get both employers and employees talking about employee wellbeing at work and work-life balance, with a focus on removing the barriers that people with caring responsibilities face in the workplace.

This is a subject I have a lot of personal experience of, being both a full-time carer for a family member and having been a working parent. Of course, there’s a lot that organisations can offer to make life easier for employees with caring responsibilities, while at the same time creating a flexible, high-performing workforce.

Why is it important?

As an employer, it’s important to understand the challenges faced by the UK’s 13 million working parents. Evidence shows that working mothers are more likely to take on a greater proportion of childcare responsibilities and are more frequently reducing their hours or leaving their jobs entirely as a result.1

Employees may also be caring for older relatives or family members with disabilities. Carers UK estimates that at least five million people  in the UK are juggling caring responsibilities with work – that’s one in seven of the workforce. However, the significant demands of caring mean that 600 people give up work every day to care for an older or disabled relative.

Adopting supportive employment practices can help employees enjoy a better work-life balance, with consequent gains for productivity, engagement, loyalty and wellbeing. Such measures can also help build up a positive image for organisations and create an edge in attracting and retaining talent.

So what can you do?

Businesses need to strike a balance between words and actions.

Talking the talk - building a supportive environment.

For example:

  • a culture of honesty about the challenges of balancing work and caring responsibilities
  • support from line managers and across the business – invest in training if necessary
  • recognition that sometimes the best-laid plans go wrong eg. employees will need to use annual leave at short notice to cover a breakdown in care arrangements
  • advertising your work/life balance culture and policies as part of recruitment to ensure diversity of candidates
  • communicating relevant policies and practices to employees so they can take advantage.

Walking the walk - providing practical benefits that parents and carers want.

For example:

  • Maternity and paternity leave scheme that offers payments above the statutory minimum requirements
  • Ditto adoption leave scheme
  • Options for flexible working – eg. flexible start and/or finish times, homeworking and part-time working
  • Option to take parental leave or extended leave to care for dependents
  • An on-site nursery
  • Access to OnDemand GP appointments for employees and their household
  • Providing a guide that pulls all key information on relevant policies together
  • Setting up and directing employees to peer-to-peer support groups – these can help combat the loneliness and isolation experienced by some carers and parents
  • Wellbeing support – being a carer can be mentally and physically exhausting so employees will appreciate resources to help them manage their health
  • Employee Assistance Programme - remind staff that they have access to 24/7 advice for those times when the conflicting priorities can get a bit much.


It’s vital that your underlying workplace culture supports the flexible and family-friendly policies you have in place. Embedding a supportive environment takes time and effort but will pay dividends in allowing parents and carers at your organisation to achieve their full potential.

To talk to us about engaging your people with a compelling employee deal, call 01908 605000, email or visit our employee engagement page for more information.

1Brigid Francis Devine, Niamh Foley & Matthew Ward, House of Commons Briefing Paper, number CBP06838 Women and the Economy, 2 March 2021, p15.


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