School’s out! Is your business agile enough to accommodate parents?

Fiona Cannon
Berlin School Year Begins
Source: Getty

School's out, leaving many families faced with the prospect of balancing six weeks of childcare and work. Alongside the logistical difficulties this involves, the Family and Childcare Trust have found that the cost of holiday childcare in Britain has risen by four per cent since last year. This leaves many working parents in a difficult position during the holidays. We as employers must take on a more supportive and agile approach if we are to retain talent within this group.

Why should we care?

Some 43 per cent of our colleagues at Lloyds Banking Group have parental or caring responsibilities, so agile working is a necessary consideration for a significant proportion of our workforce.

By building an inclusive working environment that values colleagues’ needs, businesses can give themselves the best possible chance of recruiting and retaining the best employees.

The significance of this was highlighted in a recent government survey on work/ life balance, which found that 41 per cent of all employees took the availability of agile working into account when deciding to work for their current employers.

Agile working can also help businesses meet changing customer demands. Customers now want a 24 hour service. By implementing practices like job sharing, working from home, and varied shift patterns, we are able to better respond to customer’s needs, while delivering the work/life balance that our colleagues want – and deserve.

Making it work

Agile working needs to be embedded into the entire culture of the organisation. It’s not just an HR concern.

One way in which we are tackling this area is through our investment in Additional Parental Leave (APL) and an enhanced Shared Parental Leave policy. For example, one male colleague at Lloyds Banking Group recently took APL for seven weeks during the school holidays. This was to mark the milestone of his eldest son’s transition from primary to secondary school. Due to the Group’s regular positive communication around agile working, this colleague felt hugely supported by his line manager and wider team, and returned to work with renewed enthusiasm. All colleagues also have the option to buy additional holiday as part of their benefits selection.

Another focus is on education. Ensuring all levels of the business are educated on, and engaging with, the benefits of agile working will result in employee’s requests being dealt with appropriately and sensitively. We have approached this by launching an online portal for our line managers.

The portal uses a variety of training methods to encourage them to support their teams working in an agile way, and challenges the myth that effective teams must all work in the same office in full-time positions. Over 90 per cent of all vacancies are now advertised as open to agile working, and we’re sponsoring a national campaign called Hire Me My Way to encourage other employers to promote agility at the point of hire.

Promoting the benefits of agile working also ties into our Helping Britain Prosper Plan. This sets public targets for inclusion and diversity, placing these concerns on the same level of importance as any other business issue.

Happy holidays

We as employers have the power to enable families to make the most of the summer holidays, and alleviate the anxiety of working parents during this time. Traditionally, agile working has been considered a benefit for employees and a cost for employers, but time and time again, we’ve found the opposite to be true.

Fiona Cannon is the group director of responsible business and inclusion at Lloyds Banking Group.

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