THE BLOG
15/10/2013 09:16 BST | Updated 14/12/2013 05:12 GMT

Locked Out: Why Modern Business Needs to Become More Inclusive

From April 2015, the Government intends to introduce shared parental leave, allowing new parents to choose how they share a year's worth of leave after the birth of their child.

However, rather than waiting for change to be mandated by the Government, employers should opt to include family-friendly working strategies now, with a greater emphasis on flexibility. This will reduce the risk that they will lose hardworking parents who are unable to balance childcare obligations.

Currently, many parents that go back to work find that juggling their new responsibilities can place them under immense pressure, with a survey by Working Families showing that 40 per cent of parents feel that their work and family lives are in conflict, compared with just 25 per cent who had found a suitable balance.

In some cases, employers' lack of flexibility is seeing women locked out of the work place altogether. Under the shared maternity provision, if more fathers opt to take the primary care role, they too could come up against this barrier when the time comes to return to work.

What's frustrating is that this is all so unnecessary.

In addressing and changing the current status quo, it might seem like it will be the business making all the compromises. However, it's worth keeping in mind that this isn't a one-way street: As well as retaining talented employees, employers stand to gain in other ways from removing some of the constraints created by the rigid, de-facto 9-to-5 working structure.

In fact, a report by the Government-commissioned Family Friendly Working Hours Taskforce has pointed to other business benefits including falling absenteeism and higher retention, which in turn has led to savings on recruitment, induction and training costs.

Also cited were increased productivity (58 per cent of small to medium sized enterprises reported improvement in productivity), the ability to recruit from a wider talent pool and greater loyalty among staff.

Too often, new parents are finding that their employers are far less supportive than they might have expected. Yet this needn't be the case. Rather than treating new mums and dads as something of a burden, businesses need to start taking a more proactive stance.

Indeed, we're now at the breakthrough stage where technology is making it much easier for parents to balance personal and work commitments - without any detrimental impact on their productivity and overall contribution to the business.

Rather than burying their heads in the sand or being forced to act by Government, more firms need to wake up to the fact that, in the BYOD era, parents will work just as effectively away from the office as they would within it.