Family Friendly Employers

Nearly three-quarters (71%) of women with kids under 18 are in the workforce, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and many of them have small children: 64% of moms with children under six years old are working outside the home, as are 57% of women with infants under a year old.

At First 5, we receive a lot of questions for parents around work-life balance and our outreach pieces around family-friendly employers are the most popular. Employees want to be productive, happy employees at your company. At the same time, they want to feel their children are safe, loved, and learning- and they need flexibility and support to accomplish this.

Why be a family friendly employer?

U.S. companies lose $31 billion a year to lost productivity, MetLife and the National Alliance for Caregiving have estimated.

  • allow parents to spend more and better time engaging with their children in practices that positively affect brain development
  • reduce stress and stress-related absences
  • increase happiness, morale, and productivity
  • reduction in turnover of staff, leading to lower recruitment and training costs
  • increase the number of people, particularly women, returning to work after parental leave
  • improve organizational efficiency through long service (institutional memory, industry knowledge, networks and contacts)
  • be recognized as a leader in your sector

In many cases, family-friendly policies are so important to job seekers-particularly to younger employees- that they’re willing to take less money in return for the flexibility or other benefits offered.

What are you legally required to provide?

Depending on the size of your workplace, you may be required to:

  • Make medically advisable reasonable accommodations for pregnancy, such as providing a stool, additional breaks, relief from heavy lifting, or flexible scheduling to accommodate morning sickness or prenatal appointments.
  • Honor a pregnant woman’s request to a transfer to a less strenuous or hazardous position upon request, if the transfer can be reasonably accommodated.
  • Protect your employee from harassing or unwelcome conduct relating to pregnancy, childbirth, or related conditions is unlawful when the conduct creates a hostile, intimidating, or offensive work environment, or when it interferes with your performance at work.
  • Grant job-protected, unpaid leave for up to four months while a woman is disabled (unable to perform essential job functions) by pregnancy, childbirth, or related conditions.
  • Provide a clean place and time to express breast milk through pumping.
  • Restore a woman to the same position after her pregnancy disability leave. If the same position is not available for a legitimate reason unrelated to her pregnancy or leave, she must be restored to a position that is similar in terms of pay, location, hours, content and promotional opportunities.
  • Provide a pregnant woman with the same benefits or privileges of employment provided to other employees with temporary disabilities. In addition, employers must continue health insurance benefits for women who qualify for pregnancy disability leave and/or bonding leave.
What makes an employer family-friendly?

Parents appreciate an employer that opens a dialogue about how a workplace can become more family-friendly.

  • Flexible positions and scheduling
    • Flex Time
    • Compressed workweeks (4/10, 9/80)
    • Telework
    • Remote work
    • Job Sharing
    • Meaningful part-time positions
    • Paid vacation time
    • Personal Necessity hours
    • Shift swapping
  • Policies that facilitate good parenting practices
    • Paid Parental Leave. According to ThinkProgress, “in 2011, only 11 percent of private sector workers and 17 percent of public workers reported that they had access to paid maternity leave through their employer.”  Though the Family and Medical Leave Act entitles American women 12 weeks of unpaid leave, companies with fewer than 50 paid employees are exempt from this. In California, men and women are entitled to 6 weeks of paid leave.
    • Breast-pumping facilities that are more than an empty office. Consider a comfortable chair and mini-refrigerator for storing milk. Businesses that support breastfeeding mothers at work enjoy a return of $3 on every $1
    • Health insurance benefits that cover both the employee and his/her family.
    • Employee Assistance Programs (for employer and family) to build skills and address issues.
    • Unpaid leave during school vacations.
  • Assist parents in accessing high quality child care
    • Offer on-site childcare.
    • Offer a Flexible Spending Account for child care.
    • Negotiate lower group rates with local child care facilities.
    • Provide vouchers for child care at nearby facilities as part of an incentives package.
    • Offer back-up or emergency care.
    • Consider before/after school programs and summer camps.
    • Start a child-care consortium with neighboring businesses to pool resources to create a new care center or create reserved slots with an existing one.
  • Ensure executives model work-life balance
    • Ensure that your executive team has parents, particularly mothers.
    • Schedule team meetings later in the morning or earlier in the afternoon, to avoid peak child-caring times.
    • Discourage work email outside of business hours.
    • Encourage all employees to take paid vacation time.
    • Welcome children during “Take Your Child to Work” days.
    • Offer family-oriented events, such as picnics and daytrips.

You’re not alone. Flexibility that enhances an employee’s ability to decide when and where to accomplish work tasks is on the increase. According to the 2012 National Study of Employers, flexible time offerings are increasing.

  • Flex time (offered by 77 percent of workplaces, up from 66 percent in 2005).
  • Flex place/telecommuting (63 percent, up from 34 percent).
  • Choices in managing time (93 percent, up from 78 percent).
  • Daily time off when important needs arise (87 percent, up from 77 percent).

More and more, the best employees are assessing the culture of an employer and asking current employees for a better sense of how family friendly a potential workplace might be. For many of your mid-career employees- those you’ve trained for years- they are feeling the caregiving crunch from children and aging parents. Ensure you get and keep the best candidates by adopting family friendly practices.

Resources for Employers