Baby, baby, baby, oh… Maternity, paternity, adoption and shared parental leave. How do you make flexible leave work for your business?

Days after welcoming Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor into the world, Prince Harry is back at work, following his passion and commitment to launching the 2019 Invictus Games. Whilst Harry probably doesn’t have too much to worry about in terms of childcare, the same can’t always be said about those in the world of small business and start-ups.

 There are thousands of examples of small businesses or start-ups where new parents get back to work within weeks and work flexibly around their child’s needs. In fact, this time last year I was working around my eight week old’s naps and reliant on grandparents support!  

 Many parents (and even other family members) want to share childcare, and why not? You shouldn’t assume that just because an employee isn’t the one giving birth, that they won’t be looking to make some adjustments to their working arrangements.

 Every family’s needs are different and each will have their own view on how they want to organise their childcare. Here are our thoughts on how to make giving employees flexible time off after having a baby, work for your business:


1.     Have an open conversation 

When an employee lets you know the good news that they (or their partner) will be having a baby, before you are confronted with all of the confusing forms, sit down and talk through what they have in mind for any leave and ongoing childcare. Of course, they may not know right away, and that’s fine but when they’ve had time to think about it you should be open to discussing how they see it working for their role.  

 Bear in mind that employees do have a legal right to formally request different types of leave and flexible working. From our experience, there are always compromises that need to be made - on both sides - for it to work. It’s a good idea to start thinking options through as early as possible. Nobody has to make any decisions immediately. Taking time to go away and think about how the shared parental leave might work will give more clarity in the long run.  It will also help the formal process run much more smoothly.

 2.     Review roles, responsibilities and objectives

Once you have an idea of what leave or flexible working your employee is hoping for, think about the impact on their role and your wider business objectives.  As a business you aren’t expected to approve anything that is going to negatively impact your company or that can’t operationally be supported. However, there may be things you can mutually agree upon to change to make any requests easier to approve.  

 For example, in my business, even though I was back to work quickly I couldn’t commit to being on site with our clients regularly immediately. My role needed to be more focussed on back office tasks and project work. This meant other team members supported my regular clients and in turn, this impacted my personal goals and objectives for that year.


3.     Think about the shared parental leave/flexible working overlap

Back in 2015 the government launched ‘Shared Parental Leave’. This gives parents the option of sharing the 52 weeks of maternity or adoption leave between them. This can be taken either as a whole chunk of time or in intermittent blocks – stopping and starting leave on both sides as needed.  Again, an open conversation is advised before committing to something that might not work for everyone involved.

 You might want to think about how you can use flexible working to create better work patterns for your business and your employee, when they are at work. Options like home working, compressed hours (working the same number of hours a week in fewer days) and part-time working could all afford the flexibility needed aligned with the needs of the business and individuals.


4.     If you don’t want to approve it, ask yourself ‘why?’

 Your first thought might be that accommodating complex shared parental leave requests or flexible working arrangements are going to be a pain and therefore aren’t something you want to do. Take stock and ask yourself why?  Is it genuinely because you can’t find a way for it to work without seriously negatively impacting your business?

 If not, and it’s just because you aren’t used to flexible working in your business and it doesn’t feel like it fits with your culture, be aware that increasingly people want to work for businesses who will offer flexible working (and not just for childcare reasons). At this point it might be time for you to change.  If you don’t then you may find it increasingly difficult to attract and retain great people. 

 Important to remember, happy employees are generally more productive and more loyal – so if they’re not worrying about how they’re going to look after their off-spring, and you have shown flexibility, the chances are this could be good for your business in the long run.

 Still unsure about what you need to do if you have received a shared parental leave request? Get in touch to find out how to improve flexible working in your business – it could work to everyone’s benefit!

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Sarah RopekComment