Working parents make up a significant proportion of employees. Oftentimes, policies that affect them at different stages of their parenting journeys are little to non-existent. Pregnancy is great news for many people. For working professionals, especially women, the initial excitement gives way to some concern. This worry includes how pregnancy will affect their work or vice versa. In addition, many are apprehensive about the numerous changes that would occur in their body, mind and health during the nine months of pregnancy. Their partners also bear some of this concern, naturally.
This topic is crucial because some of the most productive people in many organizations are of childbearing age. Many of them would become working parents at some point in their career journey. Human Resource departments are similarly faced with the challenge of how pregnancy or its related factors would affect their employees’ productivity, efficiency and business profitability. It is therefore necessary to provide adequate support for their pregnant employees and make some adjustments to their workplaces. Many workplaces are currently not family-friendly.
In many advanced countries, policies are being implemented to address these needs. Developing countries are still playing catchup; many working parents also wonder if they could manage childcare with their jobs. The United Nations Children’s Education Fund (UNICEF) recently highlighted how young Nigerians advocate for parental support.
Progressive workplaces take the initiative to identify and address the team’s needs appropriately. While approaches can differ from organisation to organisation, having this conversation can make a significant difference for everyone. Policies developed specifically to support working parents, pregnant or lactating women and their partners can help address some worries about the workplace impact on their health and family and vice versa.
It is difficult to capture the unique difficulties parenting workers face completely. However, we have tried to highlight some of the important ones.
In the last few years, the importance of exclusive breastfeeding in the early years of child development has been established. Mothers who want to give their children the best development path can struggle in two ways. First, they might have to return to work earlier than they wished to. Secondly, when they do return, there is no extensive plan or policy around childcare or even breastfeeding in the workplace, and their struggle goes unseen. Only about 9% of workplaces in Nigeria have a breastfeeding policy. This can also affect their productivity at work. Beyond that, it can put their children’s health at risk, causing them to have increased absences from work with reduced productivity as they try to take care of their family/child.
Childcare occurs in stages. Working parents who have successfully navigated the early days of pregnancy and the initial days of childcare will still have more to worry about when their kids eventually have to leave their side. First-time parents struggle with this more than others. They must consider managing their time between care duties and work responsibilities. Working in a place that anticipates these needs and creates adequate help for parents can help engender a feeling of safety for employees.
Many women who go through pregnancy have a lot of worries about their jobs. Firstly, they are scared about retaining their jobs after an extended period of maternity leave; secondly, for others, juggling both parenthood and work pressures often lead to stress and feelings of being overwhelmed. Lack of support, isolation at the workplace, and inability to keep up often result in voluntary resignation.
Parenting while working introduces a lot of mental and physical stress. Both males and their female counterparts will experience this stress in different ways. This stress can be managed in the early phase but if prolonged can significantly affect their work when undiscovered, especially in organizations without workplace parenting policies.
Read More: Common challenges for parenting employees
Supporting expectant mothers and young families is crucial for fostering a healthy and inclusive workplace. Here are various ways organisations can provide meaningful support.
Implement flexible work hours or remote work options to accommodate the unique needs of expectant mothers and parents with young children. This flexibility allows them to balance work and family responsibilities effectively.
Offer paid parental leave for both mothers and fathers. Adequate time off ensures working parents can bond with their newborns, manage early childcare needs, and smoothly transition back to work when ready. Go beyond statutory requirements and provide a competitive and generous paid parental leave policy. Consider offering different leave options to accommodate diverse family structures. Ensure that both mothers and fathers can take advantage of this valuable time.
Provide information about or directly offer childcare assistance services. This can include partnerships with local childcare providers, on-site childcare facilities, or subsidies for childcare costs. Collaborate with local childcare providers to negotiate special rates or offer information about nearby facilities. For larger organisations, consider establishing on-site childcare centres. Financial assistance or childcare stipends can also alleviate the financial burden on parents.
Create a supportive environment for breastfeeding mothers by offering lactation rooms, flexible break times for pumping, and providing resources for lactation consultation if needed. Designate dedicated lactation rooms that are comfortable, private, and well-equipped. Establish a clear communication plan to inform employees about the availability and location of these facilities.
Host workshops or seminars covering pregnancy, childbirth, and parenting topics. This can include sessions on balancing work and family life, managing stress, feeding, and financial planning for growing families. Organizations can bring experts to offer workshops accessible to all employees on prenatal & postnatal care, time & stress management.
Offer EAPs that provide counselling and support services. This can help employees navigate the emotional and psychological aspects of pregnancy, parenting, and work-related challenges.
It is recommended to create a structured plan to ease returning employees into work for instance phased returns, reduced hours, work from home, or other flexible scheduling. Regular check-ins with managers can provide ongoing support and adjustments.
Establish ERGs focused on working parents. These groups create a sense of community, allowing parents to share experiences advice, and support each other.
Provide financial support through benefits such as healthcare coverage for family members, family-friendly leave policies, paid parental leave and assistance programs that address the unique financial needs of growing families.
Ensure that career development opportunities are accessible to all employees, including those with family responsibilities. This may involve mentorship programs, leadership training, and career planning support.
Foster open communication channels where employees feel comfortable discussing their family-related needs. Encourage managers to have supportive and understanding conversations with their team members.
Develop child-friendly policies. This may include allowing working parents to bring children to the workplace for special events, offering on-site childcare during emergencies or important meetings, and providing flexibility for parents to address unexpected family obligations.
Ultimately, a family-friendly workplace benefits everyone. Intentional HR managers will recognise and address the unique challenges working parents and young families face in the workplace. This not only contributes to employee satisfaction but also enhances overall organisational well-being and productivity.
Read More: How companies can be more family-friendly