Balancing family-friendly with the needs of all staff

Jul 31, 2017 | Good Management

Being a family-friendly workplace is a good thing and has many business benefits, including employee morale, productivity and retention.

But there’s a balance to be struck and you need to ensure that your family-friendly initiatives don’t tip the other way and cause resentment or too much of a burden on other staff. Here are some key areas to look out for where this can happen and may need addressing:

Christmas isn’t just for children

In their zeal to be family-friendly, some businesses operate a policy of allowing parents to take Christmas Day off, or to have preference around time off at Christmas. While parents no doubt appreciate the ability to spend Christmas Day with their children, most understand the need to be fair to all employees, and understand that the job they have chosen sometimes involves working on Christmas Day, or other days they would rather be at home.

Similarly, while other employees are sympathetic to parents having to work and not be with their children on festive holidays, they have families too, and might rightly feel aggrieved if they never get special days off because their workplace is full of parents.

Annual leave allocation in school holidays

Parents often want to take their annual leave during school holiday time, which is entirely understandable. But while some employees without children of school age might relish the opportunity to go away during term-time and benefit from cheaper holiday prices, that’s not necessarily the case. If they have friends or relatives who are restricted to school holidays, or have other reasons for wanting dates which are outside term-time, it’s important to be fair.

As long as parents have the opportunity to take at least some of their annual leave during school holidays, others should also be considered. Make sure you have a fair and transparent holiday booking system in place to avoid complaints and resentment.

A range of benefits and events

As well as offering benefits which appeal to families, see if you can offer a range of benefits so that employees without families feel they are taken care of and valued as well. It is possible these days to find low-cost providers of flexible benefits packages, giving small businesses access to arrangements which enable each employee to design their benefits to best suit their personal circumstances.

Don’t restrict flexibility

Employees are no longer required to have family responsibilities to request flexible working – as long as they meet the service-requirement, all staff can ask for it equally.

But some businesses still think of flexible working as a family-thing, and consciously or sub-consciously prioritise those with family responsibilities for flexible working, or thinking less of an employee who wants to reduce their working hours for other reasons the employer might consider less justifiable.

Flexible working requests must be considered on an individual basis and the employee’s reason for requesting it should not be a factor in the decision-making process at all.

Remember the impact on others

Although things like flexible working arrangements, short-notice family leave, grandparents having time off and family leave are all good things to do, and very supportive of many employees, it is vital to consider the impact on colleagues who may feel they are picking up the slack. You have a responsibility to all your staff, and a duty to be fair and look after everyone. Give time off or flexibility for family reasons by all means, but make sure the burden doesn’t fall unfairly on other team members, acknowledge the impact it has and take steps to address it.

If you would like more guidance on balancing the needs of all staff, do get in touch.