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4 Ways Employers Can Clearly Define Benefits to Better Support New Parents at Work

Becoming a parent is an exciting and rewarding time. It can also be stressful, especially if you are a working parent. The different circumstances surrounding this journey are as numerous as the number of toys you are likely to accumulate before and after a baby arrives.

new parent benefits

Some people are single parents, some start families very early in life and career, some have waited painstakingly to conceive, and some people see the biggest benefit of their job being compensation provided to pay for alternative ways of becoming parents like IVF, adoption, and the freezing of embryos.

Creating a truly supportive workplace for parents begins with acknowledging and embracing the unique challenges parents face.

Listening to employees’ needs and aligning benefits and practices accordingly are foundational steps. Recognizing that each parenting journey is distinct, employers play a crucial role in ensuring that their workforce is aware of available benefits and understands how utilizing them aligns with their job security and well-being.

Consider the complexities faced by those early in their parenting journey, especially for women. The questions swirling around in a new parent’s head are endless and overwhelming, and the answers are often uncertain.

As employers, we can help reduce that uncertainty in how we set up and communicate benefits and support new parents in their journey. As a working mom’s coach and a mother myself, I share four insights below on how businesses can effectively support new parents in the workplace.

Offer Benefits That Aren’t a Burden

A company’s benefits should be beneficial, not burdensome. To do this you need to make sure your benefits offerings are being seen through all lenses. There may be a need for what is known in the executive coaching world as re-contracting. Check your benefits to see if they still offer what is needed by the individuals they were designed to support. If you have not done this in the last 10 years, chances are some changes need to be made.

One effective way to do this is by having your Benefits Specialist meet with your Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer (if you still have one) to ensure the current benefits package serves more than one demographic, gender or ethnicity. Validate the benefits are not based on antiquated ways of working, like not taking into consideration that women, who might have a baby, may be a part of your workforce.

The phenomenon of childbirth – the miraculous occurrence that it is – should not be seen as out of the ordinary and unusual. Women have been having babies since the beginning of time, and they will continue to do so. If you truly value diversity in your workplace, make sure your benefits, and the systems and operational practices in place support that.

Embrace Transparency and Communication

A company’s benefits should be a source of support, not additional stress, providing clarity on available resources, coverage during absence, and clear expectations upon return can help ease stress for both the employee and the employer.

To ensure that benefits and policies align with current needs, businesses should proactively realign their offerings and update policy verbiage. It is essential to be specific and ensure that these updates are clearly communicated in the employee handbook.

Specifically, I recommend the inclusion of a dedicated section on Parental Leave and Parental Return. This section should outline the leave structure designed to protect the employee, provide links to relevant resources, and encourage and help employees and managers facilitate conversations about task delegation during the absence and expectations upon the employee’s return.

This proactive approach fosters a transparent and supportive environment, contributing to a smoother transition for both the departing employee and the team handling their responsibilities in their absence.

And as a bonus – clear benefit communication can be a great tool in attracting diverse talent to your organization. Promote how clearly defined your benefits package is on job postings and watch the best talent roll in.

This is important for people who are not parents yet, but plan to be, parents who desire to have more children, and women who may be pregnant already and reluctant to apply because of the anticipated backlash of starting a job and having to leave it a few months later to deliver a baby. When you can make a parent or a parent-to-be feel like they are truly welcomed into your work culture, you raise the bar and increase your recruiting pool tremendously.

Create Psychological Safety

Nobody likes a “bait and switch”.

We are talking about people’s careers and livelihoods during a time of major transition. Employers need to be clear with parents about how time away may affect their careers and income. Parents should know what to expect when they come back. If they were on track for promotion, it needs to be known whether going on parental leave will delay or even derail that goal.

During and after delivery, if a mom is clear about how she will return to work, and that her job will still be there, she will have greater capacity to focus on her post-partum healing and the care of her new baby. It is important to remember that parental leave is not vacation.

And, it is not time to just spend “bonding with the baby.” For mothers in particular, parental leave is meant for a woman to rest and recover after a major medical event both physically and mentally.

Managers need to be proactive with conversations to inform and remind parents of their rights and perks. Creating a psychologically safe space at work is paramount for employees to thrive. I strongly encourage managers to schedule a pre-leave meeting with their employees.

During this time, review the policies, ask about current and future career goals, and get a gauge on the projected return date. Do not forget to reassure your employees that everything is already set up to be taken care of in their absence, and the only thing they should be thinking about is healing and adjusting to their new family dynamic.

Recognize The Value Parents Bring to Work

As organizations strive to create inclusive and supportive environments for their employees, it is essential to recognize the unique value that parents bring to the workplace, especially during pivotal life moments like becoming a new parent. Parents often develop a remarkable set of skills through their experiences in managing a household, honing multitasking abilities, and navigating complex schedules, all of which seamlessly translate to the professional setting.

The resilience and adaptability cultivated in parenthood are invaluable assets that contribute to a dynamic and well-rounded workforce.

Recognizing and celebrating these contributions not only enhances the employee experience but also reinforces the company’s commitment to fostering a culture that values the whole individual, both inside and outside the workplace.

By re-evaluating benefits through an inclusive lens, promoting clear communication, and ensuring psychological safety, employers can empower new parents to navigate their roles at home and at work with confidence. As the workplace adapts to the needs of a diverse workforce, the ripple effect extends beyond individual employees, shaping a workplace culture that attracts and retains top talent.

In recognizing and celebrating the multifaceted contributions of parents, organizations not only enhance their appeal but also stand at the forefront of a positive societal shift towards family-friendly, empathetic workplaces. The journey to supporting new parents is not just an organizational strategy; it is a commitment to building a more compassionate and resilient future for all.

Robbie Green is an Executive Coach at Talking Talent North America.

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