The Top Five Ways to Support and Retain your Working Parents and Carers in 2023

Read more for a detailed overview report of our recent Bright Horizons Webinar, all about the top five ways to support and retain working parents and carers in 2023. You can watch on demand here.  

It's no surprise that Bright Horizons 2022 Work+Family Snapshot survey of client employees shows a leaning towards ‘family first' following the pandemic, with just over half of its respondents placing a higher priority on this within the last 12 months. This was particularly keenly felt amongst the 18-34 generation, who at the same time also highlight career as more of a focus of ambition than before. This article shares the key findings of a Bright Horizons HR webinar held in early October 2022 with its panel of experts: Lavinia Groves, Citi, Director, Global Head of Compliance Regulatory Engagement Standards and Co-Chair of Citi London Families Matter Network, Leah Gray, UK Reward and Benefits Manager, Marsh McLennan and Jared Hindle, People & Communities (HR) representative, Cisco.

  1. Culture: Marsh McLennan has boosted its maternity and paternity policies to strengthen support for those starting families including a generous package of 16 weeks' full pay for fathers or partners. Gray adds, “People might move to a nine-day fortnight, so they're still not really impacting their income too much. If both parents are able to do that, then all of a sudden there's one parent around for a full day each week.”

It's a mindset that is mirrored at Citi. Groves explains that it's about leadership support and visible buy-in. Citi also places emphasis on flexible working patterns, “Hybrid working arrangements are no longer the exception, they are more the expectation.” Hindle says that Cisco has established a ‘conscious culture' in which hybrid and remote are normal and people are aware of each other's needs…

  1. Total Rewards/Benefits, with an emphasis on Care: The cost-of-living crisis is biting. Jennifer Liston-Smith, Head of Thought Leadership at Bright Horizons, explains that many employers are giving targeted pay increases or one-off payments while offering money-saving discounts and salary finance to enable advance access to wages or loans.

As one aspect of family finances, childcare and eldercare concerns are top of many people's minds when they are looking for a new job according to Bright Horizons' Modern Families Index 2022. “It was also really striking in the survey that this concern was highest for younger workers, with 93% of those in the 18-34 bracket with caring responsibilities saying they would be concerned about adult or eldercare arrangements before accepting a new job or promotion.” As Liston-Smith says this dispels any assumptions about which generations are more focused upon these issues.

The Bright Horizons Work+Family Snapshot shows that 79% are more committed to their employer when Back up Care (BUC) (for when plans change), is in place. Still more striking is that BUC boosts productivity with 78% saying it enhances their output because it enables them to work when they otherwise could not.

Gray says that Marsh McLennan has realised that Back-up Care allows employees to save money, for example during the school holidays reducing the financial pressures for holiday clubs. Liston-Smith explains that workplace nurseries bring tax and NI exemptions. She says, “The employer can either fully sponsor the care or do a co-pay arrangement with the employees.” Groves says Citi provides Back-Up Care too, explaining that it's also crucial that employees are made aware of what choices they have, such as Back-Up Care covering eldercare as well as children.

Cisco's London onsite nursery is run by Bright Horizons and has meant that many parents don't have the inconvenience of driving to two locations but also that they benefit from exemplary childcare. The value of such provision is further highlighted in McKinsey's: ‘The Childcare Conundrum, 2022' in which about 40% said that on-site childcare services may make them reconsider moving to another employer and stay loyal.

  1. Allies: Parents and carers gain great encouragement, support, and practical tips from exchanging their experience with others. Citi has affinity networks including the London Families Matter network with visible senior sponsorship. This is part of several networks and communities. There are menopause champions, that are not all female, as well as a menopause clinic. An annual toy and book drive gives back to the community.

Marsh McLennan offers group coaching pre- and post-leave and a dads/partners' session. Gray says, “It's important to help people with planning their professional and family lives, among peers from the same work culture.” Cisco's Hindle adds that it's important that leaders make themselves available to have the right conversations when they are needed.

  1. Educational & Developmental Support: Many working parents continue to pick up the pieces of the home-schooling aftermath. Bright Horizons reports that parents are increasingly turning to their employers for help in educational catchup. A recent study of Millennials and Gen Z by the US Bright Horizons team, shows a high concern (76%) about their child's social and emotional development. Responding to these concerns, Bright Horizons put in place a new facet of its Back-Up Care with virtual tutoring sessions for four to sixteen-year-olds.

Marsh McLennan is one such employer that offers this service to its working families. Gray says the tutoring, as well as educational support, also provides another important hour's childcare. It's a further creative approach that is being welcomed and highlights them as a family friendly employer. Cisco is also demonstrating just how far it is listening to its working parents and understanding the ambitions they have for their children. Hindle says, “We do a lot of half term work experience.” This is a hybrid model with days in the office and online.

  1. Being Agile & Flexible: In today's demanding world it's not surprising that our fifth way employers can support and retain their working parents and carers is by being flexible. That is also very much about listening to what workers want and understanding how to meet their needs. Citi has facilitated this by listening closely to the voice of the employee and taking regularly pulse surveys, including identifying the needs of those with caring responsibilities within those. Cisco employees have also been consulted and the result is that the business has taken a bold decision not to demand that its employees return to the office. Instead, all are considered to be ‘hybrid'. Marsh McLennan continues to emphasise the importance of communicating their offerings to working parents and carers. “We are mindful that back-up care and tutoring can feel exclusive to parents, so we take care to raise awareness that it supports eldercare or adult care.”