Working Parents Avoid Using Parental Support Policies Due to Fear of Judgement

Despite there being a growing spotlight on workplace policies for parents, the number utilising parental support is alarmingly low. That’s according to WOMBA (Work, Me and the Baby), the working parents coaching practice, who might know why. Below, we delve into their recent study, which was undertaken with Hult International Business School, and explore their findings.

If you have any questions or issues concerning your parental rights at work, contact Redmans Solicitors today. After discussing your circumstances, we can answer your queries and advise on your possible next steps. Get in touch with us now by:

Parental Support Shunned to Evade Judgment

In recent years, shortfalls concerning the support for working parents have been highlighted. This has prompted many employers to improve and develop the parental support they offer. However, WOMBA’s new study has found that various working parents steer clear of such support for fear of being judged.

Several mothers expressed their worries that they would be seen as “less capable” or “less committed”, negatively impacting their careers. For example, one mother stated how she felt that “there’s a perception that I’ve gone from being someone who really cared… to someone who doesn’t…” since becoming a parent. As such, numerous mothers have hidden their “parental identities and responsibilities” at work.

Yet, WOMBA learned this wasn’t just a problem for mothers. 85% of men felt they should be equally involved in childcare responsibilities as women. What’s more, 90% agreed both men and women taking leave for family caring duties was equally acceptable. Despite this, the use of shared parental leave (SPL), whereby parents can share the leave entitlement, is less than 10%. 

There is an argument that the financial deficiencies of SPL make it unpractical for the vast majority. However, WOMBA found the fear of judgment was, again, a significant factor in why fathers don’t utilise parental support.

Alison Green, the director of WOMBA, highlighted the importance of psychological safety in the workplace. She stated how parents must believe they can utilise the support without feeling it will be detrimental to their career. Without such psychological safety, she believes workplace policies for parents will fail.

Why is Parental Support Important?

As mentioned, many working parents fail to utilise parental support for fear of being judged. This is concerning as that fear could negatively impact the individual’s mental health. However, that isn’t the only struggle parents with jobs face.

For many, a significant consideration is childcare. Not only who will provide the service, but, more importantly, how much it will cost. When parents can’t attend to their family responsibilities, childcare costs can rack up, intensifying the financial strain they face.

Furthermore, juggling work and family commitments can be difficult for many parents. This is because a tremendous toll could be taken on their mental health if they aren’t provided the flexibility to ease this issue.

As such, an overriding worry for working parents is burnout. The stress of their stretched finances and overloaded schedules could negatively reflect on their workplace performance. It could also take its toll on their family life at home. Therefore, it is essential to ensure individuals feel they can take advantage of the available parental support.

Tips to Improve Support for Working Parents

Whilst parental support shortfalls are being highlighted and addressed, the perception around utilising it must be improved. WOMBA has offered advice on how employers could go about doing this. They’ve suggested:

  1. Organisations lead by example – If those in senior management are visibly utilising workplace policies for parents, other employees will follow.
  2. Encouraging working parents to share their experiences – Those who’ve utilised parental support could share how this helped them overcome difficulties to influence others to do the same.
  3. Training senior management – This will enable them to identify and appropriately help employees who require support.

In any event, the key was outlined by WOMBA’s director, Alison Green. If working parents feel psychologically safe, they will be more likely to use the parental support available to them. This is because they won’t be fearful of their careers being negatively impacted. As such, employers must focus on fostering a workplace culture that encourages parents to take the support available to them.

What if Employers Fail to Provide Support for Working Parents?

Although many employees are currently not utilising the support available to them, others still remain unsupported. As such, we asked one of our experienced employment law solicitors, Alex Hodson, “What should a working parent do if they aren’t receiving their legally entitled support?”.

Our Lawyers Take

Alex Hodson, Senior Associate at Redmans, says “Firstly, you need to understand your legal rights and what parental support your employer should be putting in place for you. You also need to understand the parental support being offered internally by your employer may offer more than the statutory entitlement”.

She advises checking internal policies on grievance submissions. This is because the most appropriate step would be to raise a formal grievance if an employer has failed to comply with internal policies or your legal rights.

On the topic of grievance submission, she also adds, “If your employer has no policies in place, then putting your grievance in an email or in writing will be sufficient. Your grievance letter/email should include:

  1. The issues that you have faced
  2. The lack of support from your employer, and
  3. The outcome that you are seeking.

Your grievance should be investigated by someone independent within the organisation, and if your grievance is upheld, recommendations can be made“. Alex adds that these recommendations could range from management training to updating employee support policies.

Finally, she says, “If you have been subjected to a detriment for taking any parental leave (i.e. maternity leave, shared parental leave, paternity leave), then you have a claim that can be pursued in the employment tribunal.”

Contact Redmans Solicitors now if you have any queries concerning your parental rights at work. If you don’t believe you’re getting the support you’re entitled to, we can advise on how you could proceed. Begin your journey with us today by: