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Why it Pays to Be a Family-Friendly Workplace

Family happy about their family friendly workplace

While not every province in Canada celebrates Family Day, it’s definitely taken the country by storm in recent times with BC celebrating its very first Family Day this year. And just as Family Day is becoming the norm in Canada, so too should the family-friendly workplace; not just for the benefit of burgeoning young families, but for the benefit of employers’ bottom lines, too.

A family-friendly workplace is called that for a variety of reasons that range from helping their employees to start new families to providing up to six weeks of paid vacation time. Regardless of their specific offerings, each of these employers is likely to benefit from high employee morale, loyalty, and retention, which translate into higher productivity, lower turnover and training costs, and access to an eager pool of potential workers waiting in the wings.

But what makes a family-friendly workplace, and why is it so important to an employer’s success?

Being a family-friendly workplace starts with more families

Canada is seeing a decline in birthrates with young couples waiting longer to have children, and having fewer of them when they do. This decline means that there are fewer people to replenish retiring workers as time goes on, which in turn can have drastic consequences for the economy. And while some see immigration as a means of making up the difference, others argue that not nearly enough immigration is actually taking place to meet future employment demands. That’s why forward-thinking businesses are taking an active role, not just in relieving the pressures young people feel once they’ve had a child, but by actually helping them have children in the first place, by supplementing government maternity leave wages, and when applicable, by covering portions of fertility treatment and adoption costs. After all, as it stands, the future not only has fewer workers in it, it has fewer consumers, too. By contributing to a prosperous birthrate, businesses are also contributing to their own prosperity.

Devoted moms make devoted workers

Pregnant workers have specific rights under the law, but meeting those minimum requirements is no way to make the most of what could be a prosperous relationship between your organization and its expectant employees. Studies have shown that women who work for employers that support them during pregnancy are more likely to work harder and are less likely to be regularly late and/or absent. They’re also more likely to return to work after their maternity leave ends – and paying a temporary worker for a year-long contract can ultimately cost you less than spending money on job ads, training, and other expenses that come with trying to find a permanent replacement. So what does organizational support during pregnancy look like? It can be as simple and inexpensive as having designated parking for pregnant workers or providing educational collateral, such as pamphlets, posters, and flyers about workshops, that’s both readily available and highly visible within the office. Other inexpensive options include allowing pregnant workers more downtime throughout the day and/or letting them work from home where possible. After all, it’s how well someone works, not how long they work, that matters. And the more obviously you support your pregnant workers, the more word will spread about what a great employer you are.

Happy families mean happy employees

Once an employee has returned from parental leave, it’s still imperative to show your support. Much of what you provide for pregnant workers – such as preferred parking and flextime – is also good for new parents. But, of course, new parents have new needs, and the more you’re able to cater to those needs, the more likely those parents will stay on as loyal, productive employees. The most obvious perk that every new parent wants is onsite daycare or after-school childcare, and some larger organizations do offer these. However, there are other, less demanding benefits that can go a long way: you can start a new-parent support network that puts new parents in touch with other parents in your organization; you can increase the time limit or the salary percentage of parental leave; or you can offer financial benefits, such as an Registered Education Savings Plan (RESP) to help parents save for their children’s post-secondary education.

Family-friendly workplace policies aren’t just for kids

Being a family-friendly workplace isn’t all about accommodating new parents. Some employees may have other family members that require special attention, such as elderly parents or an unwell partner, and it pays to have policies around those situations as well. Remember that the relationship between employer and employee is a two-way street – and sensitive businesses are savvy businesses.

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