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Happiest workplaces: Parental welfare

In this blog series, we look at best practice from companies across the world and how they are paving the way for a happier, more engaged and productive workforce of the future…

From dealing with the dreaded lockdown home-schooling, to trying to look attentive in zoom calls with toddlers clinging to your sleeves, it’s safe to say the mental, physical and emotional wellbeing of parents has been taken far more seriously since the pandemic shone a light on it.

As the lines between work life and home life became so blurred, they were practically non-existent, leaders, HR teams and the world began to look deeper at the welfare of parents during COVID, and beyond.

Interestingly, a new briefing for Working Families’ #FlexTheUKcampaign, with Wates Group, shows concern from many parents about a backward slide to less flexible work, and a desire to keep the positive changes that the pandemic has brought for their family life.

Jane van Zyl, CEO of Working Families, said, ‘As we work together to figure out our ‘new normal’, one thing is very clear: to go back to old, inflexible ways of working would not just be a bitter blow for many parents, it would make extremely bad business sense.’

Over the last few months, we’ve seen companies really step up their game when it comes to parental welfare, and this month, we’ll be looking at one company in particular that set the bar incredibly high, paving the way for other businesses to follow…

John Lewis

In June, John Lewis Partnership became the first UK retailer to introduce 26 weeks equal parenthood paid maternity and paternity leave and two weeks paid pregnancy loss leave.

These commitments, alongside the start of a pilot programme to provide career help for young people leaving the care system, are part of a new package of support for employees (partners) who jointly co-own the business.

These new measures were introduced as a result of feedback from their partners who shared what mattered the most to them, supporting the company’s vision to become the UK’s most inclusive business for their partners and communities.

Rt Hon Caroline Nokes MP and Chair of the Women and Equalities Committee said, “The pandemic has been particularly hard for families juggling all sorts of different demands and pressures and I am pleased but not surprised the John Lewis Partnership has risen to the challenge to help both existing and future employees.”

Maternity

This is a fantastic step forward for John Lewis, recognising the importance of encouraging feedback from their partners and employees and addressing them. This also is a great reflection of pro-active policy making, recognising that there has been a collective shift from the workaholic lifestyle to re-establishment of a great work/life balance and shifting priorities.

One of the things most overdue here is the launch of a baby loss policy, protecting and providing support for those grieving. John Lewis have stated that any Partner who experiences the loss of a pregnancy will be entitled to take two weeks’ paid leave. Like all Partners, they will also have access to emotional support through the Partnership’s free counselling and mental health services.

Jacqui Clinton, who directs Tommy’s corporate Pregnancy and Parenting at Work service, said: “Baby loss at any stage in pregnancy is one of the most heart-breaking things any family can experience – and one that’s endured all too frequently, but often quietly, because of persistent stigma in society. It’s fantastic to see companies acknowledging this impact and tackling this taboo by creating dedicated leave policies; this will help anyone who’s struggling to reach out, and to feel confident and supported in doing so.”
Support
We couldn’t have said it any better ourselves! By opening the floor for people to receive the much-needed support and counselling following baby loss, John Lewis is committing to their employee’s mental health and putting wellbeing at the forefront.

This also goes quite a long way in their Diversity and Inclusion agenda, with equal support, absence leave and recognition for both parents.

This is not only a clear statement of what we have known all along; it is not a mother’s responsibility alone to raise a child, but also a clear move away from outdated gender roles, reinforcing that fathers have just as much of a right to want to be a primary care-giver and not conform to societal pressures.

We love to see so much reform in the parental welfare space and seeing other businesses paving the way for many more to follow.

Well done John Lewis!

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