Balance for Better: Government offers family-friendly guide

With International Women’s Day 2019 and its Balance for Better focus just days away, the UK Government Equalities Office has published new guides for employers looking to better support working parents.

Image of balance between pink and blue pegs
Introducing the guides, available online, the Government Equalities Office (GEO) says family friendly policies – such as flexible working, enhanced parental leave, and additional childcare provision – enable more equal sharing of work and childcare between men and women.Family-friendly policies are also good for business, helping to attract and retain talent and improve productivity.

Positive about family-friendly policies?

The Government Equalities Office family-friendly policies action note and posters are based on evidence of what work. They form part of the UK government’s campaign to work with businesses to close the gender pay gap.The GEO's latest advice offers employers, HR teams, and diversity and inclusion leads accessible guidance on how to enhance family-friendly working policies and build robust organisational cultures to support take-up.Most employees already have the right to request flexible working and official figures show take-up is around 68%.However, studies including a recent poll of over 1,000 people by parenting forum Mumsnet shows significant reluctance for job candidates to ask about family-friendly policies for fear of not being offered the job.

How can employers improve their flexible working policies?

To ensure everyone who needs to can access flexible and family-friendly working practices, and to address some of the other factors causing the gender pay gap, the Government Equalities Office advises employers to consider the following steps:
  • When advertising jobs, mention the flexible working options available. This can help attract a more skilled and diverse pool of candidates.
  • Consider if there are other forms of flexible working you can offer to give employees choice in how and where they work.
  • Build in flexibility when creating a new role or filling a vacancy. Could the job be done remotely or split into a job share?
  • During new staff induction, explain how you support flexible working and discuss available options.
  • During annual reviews, explain and explore flexibility for existing employees.
  • Train line managers on the benefits of flexible working and how to balance business and employee needs.
  • Normalise flexible working by actively supporting male and female employees to achieve a good work-life balance.
  • Highlight senior leaders as role models for flexible working.
  • Review take-up of flexible working regularly and take action if barriers are identified.

How can employers better support parents with childcare?

Access to childcare is also a known factor in the complex gender pay gap picture. A recent survey from flexible workspace provider CuckoozNest earlier this year also highlights strong support for more employer-backed childcare. Here the Government Equalities Office's new guidance suggests employers could better promote the government's initiatives, alongside offering enhanced childcare support.

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