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How to tell if a company actually supports working parents

Father With Baby Daughter In Sling Multi-tasking Working From Home On Laptop
You may have to do a bit of detective work to find out how family-friendly a prospective employer really is. Photo: Getty (monkeybusinessimages via Getty Images)

Maybe you’re looking for a change in your career, or you’ve been offered a great job at a new company that you’ve had your eye on for a while. As a working parent, there are more considerations to bear in mind than just the salary, however. It’s important that your organisation fully supports you so you can balance having a career and being a parent.

Sometimes, what an organisation says and what they do can be two different things. A company may promote a flexible working policy, but if flexible working requests are never approved, such policies are nothing more than a tick-box exercise.

Legally, employees have the right to request flexible working from day one of their employment. However, research has shown that many requests to work flexibly are turned down – and often for no good reason. According to a survey of almost 13,000 working mums, half said their boss had rejected their flexible working request – or had only accepted part of it. Most (86%) mums working flexibly said that they have faced discrimination and disadvantage at work as a result of their request being accepted.


Read more: Why are employees so disengaged – and can we fix it?

Additionally, nearly all – 92% – of working mums who currently work flexibly say they would find it difficult or impossible to do their job without it. So what should you consider when evaluating how parent-friendly a company is?

Find out what the company’s flexible working policies are

Flexible work arrangements allow you to work hours that fit best within your schedule or work remotely. For example, you may be able to arrive at the office later and leave later in order to fit in the school run. You may also be able to work a few days at home each week, or work split shifts.

It’s important to ask about these policies during the interview process, so you know what is on offer before you accept a job. It’s also helpful to gauge how enthusiastic about flexible working the hiring manager is. If working flexibly seems to come with many caveats, or as a last resort, it might not be the company for you.

Check if the company promotes their flexible working policies on their website or on their social media. If they’re on show, it can be a good indication that the organisation is happy to accommodate the needs of workers. Additionally, if the organisation does offer flexible working, it should be universally available to all employees.

Read more: When to follow-up with an employer after a job interview

“There is no one-size-fits-all approach to work patterns,” says Matt Monette, UK and Ireland country lead at the hiring firm Deel, which carried out research. “Some will prefer fully remote and can make that work for them and their employer, while others embrace the hybrid approach.”

Speak to other parents at the company

It might be tricky, but it can be useful to speak to other parents who work at the company. A hiring manager may be happy to set up an informal meeting with an employee, or you could try contacting someone on LinkedIn. Be open about why you want to speak to the employee. A fellow working parent may be happy to share how they find juggling work and childcare responsibilities.

You may want to consider asking specific questions, including how they’ve managed a sick child’s care, or how bureaucratic the company is in terms of flexible arrangements. It can also be helpful to ask how the employee is treated as a flexible worker. For example, whether they are kept in the loop with updates, or whether the communication with home-workers is lacking.

Look at online reviews of the organisation

An easier option is to look at online reviews of the company on websites such as Glassdoor. Often, current or former employees are more open about their experiences if they can be anonymous.

Be ready to turn down a job offer

If you’re getting a bad feeling from a company, there is usually a reason why. It might be the slight eye-roll from the manager when you ask about flexible working policies, or ask if many employees at the organisation are parents too. The interviewer may seem non-committal about stating whether employees are able to work from home.

If this is the case, you may need to be ready to turn down a job offer and look elsewhere. Ultimately, working for a company that isn’t parent-friendly will make your life more difficult if you have to push to be allowed to change your hours – or if you feel you’re going to be treated unfairly as a working parent.

Watch: Why do we still have a gender pay gap

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