2013 brings further emphasis from the government on family friendly working with consultation on parental leave reforms, giving both parents the right to share up to a year’s leave to look after their new-born, as well as legislation to extend to all employees, the right to request flexible working.

Changes in demographics and social circumstances have led to an increase in the number of employees in the workplace with caring responsibilities, both male and female.  Employers who position themselves to meet these needs through family friendly practices, will benefit from reduced turnover, improved retention, innovation and competitive advantage. 

Each organisation and its employees are different however, and so getting it right when it comes to flexibility, means asking the workforce what they need.  There are a number of ways this can be done; consider carrying out a survey as well as using other opportunities to generate ideas and input such as team meetings, informal discussion, focus groups and a working party.

It is important to ensure privacy and confidentiality whilst finding out from employees what care responsibilities they have, the affect this has on them and how they do their work, the impact on their peers, colleagues and customers; how appropriate the organisation’s current family friendly policies and practices are and how they could be improved.

Every employee should be included in the survey or other information gathering activity as many will have different needs and it is easy to wrongly make assumptions based on characteristics such as age and gender.

Does your organisation have the edge on family friendliness?  How appropriate is their approach?