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What working parents actually want

For many parents, returning to work from parental leave is a hard pill to swallow. Work life balance has become a key issue all round, but families are especially affected. Finding a healthy balance is essential and implementing family friendly policies can go a long way to achieving that goal.

The benefits of family friendly policies seem simple: happier parents mean happier workers and, in turn, a more positive work culture. But there are more direct benefits for organisations who invest in the right programs including increased productivity, a happier and less stressful work environment and the ability to attract and retain top talent.

The key is to invest in perks that benefit employees in a meaningful way and that all starts with knowing what parents actually want.

Support from management:

Communication is paramount to a successful return to work for parents. Ensuring personal communication from leadership regularly – before, during and upon their return will be incredibly helpful.

Some companies are supporting working parents by appointing senior leaders as champions and mentors who can arrange seminars, luncheons and informal networks to provide parents and parents-to-be with helpful information, enabling a smooth transition back into the workplace.

Flexible Work Arrangements:

Our sister company, JustMums Recruitment, recently surveys over 550 women to determine their employment preferences and experiences as working parents. The results indicated that flexibility is the deciding factor above every other decision-making criteria – including pay. Of those surveyed, 73% wanted to change roles due to the lack of flexibility and 41% were looking to change jobs within 6 – 12 months.

The term flexible working refers to arrangements that enable employees to adjust the number of hours they work. A misconception is that flexibility is only working from home or part time employment. However, flexible working includes compressed hours, 9 day fortnights, full time flexibility and perhaps the option to schedule their own rosters.

Gender neutral paid parental leave policies

Many modern parents aspire to be equal, doing away with the concept of the “primary and secondary caregiver” and there is a growing push for parental leave equality to ensure men have an equal opportunity to be involved. According to a national survey of more than 1,000 people commissioned by ING, three out of 5 respondents believe the term “primary and secondary caregiver” is outdated and promotes unequal parenting.

ING, Medibank, Konica Minolta and Telstra have all recently demolished the term and have amended their current policies to include gender neutral shared parental leave for both mothers and fathers.

Subsidised and flexible day care:

Childcare still remains the biggest barrier for parents when returning to the workforce. Employers can offer a range of services to support their employees including

Programs and incentives to cover childcare costs:

Some employers offer a range of assistance programs including a flexible spending account or a dependant care assistance program, allowing employees to use pre-tax dollars to pay for child care expenses.

Onsite childcare:

Not only do parents benefit from reduced travel time before and after work but quick and easy access to their children, if needed, throughout the day results in more peace of mind. The convenience to parents is obvious and this incentive helps companies attract and retain talent, particularly talented women who may opt out of the workforce entirely due to high child care fees or inflexible workplaces.

Kids Holiday Programs:

The amount of leave employees get doesn’t match the school holiday period and for working parents these breaks can be challenging, stressful and expensive. IAG is one of the first organisations to introduce an on-site kid’s holiday program for their employees. The program runs solely during the holiday period at a discounted rate and is incredibly popular & heavily utilised nationwide.

Breastfeeding friendly workplaces:

Having an office breastfeeding policy is another way for businesses to support parents in balancing home and work life. These policies can also go a long way towards reaching an employer of choice status.

 “Integrating breastfeeding support into your organisation ensures the space, time and support is in place for your employees.”  For more information about how you can become accredited, visit

Creating gender balance and increasing women participation:

While Australia is making progress in many aspects of gender equality, female representation in leadership continues to stall with only 17% of CEO’s and roughly 30% of key management positions held are by women. The WGEA Women in Leadership: Lessons from Australian companies leading the way, provide some fantastic tips to create a gender balanced workplace include the following;

  1. Build a strong case for change
  2. Role-model a commitment to diversity, including with business partners
  3. Redesign roles and work to enable flexible work and normalised uptake across levels and genders
  4. Actively sponsor rising women
  5. Set a clear diversity aspiration, backed up by accountability
  6. Support talent through life transitions
  7. Ensure the infrastructure is in place to support a more flexible and inclusive workplace
  8. Invest in frontline leader capabilities to drive cultural change
  9. Challenge traditional views of merit in recruitment and evaluation
  10. Develop rising women and ensure experience in key roles

Employee Wellbeing and Mental Health Programs:

Not only do parents benefit from employee wellbeing and mental health programs, everyone does. Employees benefit from greater support and improved mental, emotional, social and physical health. Organisations benefit from increased productivity, less absenteeism reduced compensation costs and improved organisational culture. Providing strategies to minimise stress and manage mental health will reduce workplace accidents, limit sick leave and reduce conflict. When employees are supported they feel more secure, valued and committed to their work and the company they work for.

How Working Mothers Connect can support your talent acquisition and diversity strategies:

At Working Mothers Connect we proudly connect our growing community with progressive organisations that support parents in the workforce. We offer a range of employer packages to suit all budgets, from single job advertising to annual subscriptions. You can advertise your vacancies on our platform by visiting or alternatively you can email and our friendly team will be in touch to discuss our services further.