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Pregnant person at work, soon to go on maternity leave

Supporting new parents in the workplace

Having children for the first time is a monumental event in somebody’s life, and as amazing and magical as it can be, the reality is that it brings some huge challenges too.

What are the challenges that new parents face at work?

1. Sleep deprivation

Research has shown that sleep satisfaction and duration steeply decline when parenthood starts, and the vast majority of parents (76% of both mums and dads) reportedly have frequent sleep problems.

You can find out more about how to manage a multigenerational workforce and their wellbeing needs by downloading our free employer’s guide today. 

This is a huge challenge for new parents and their employers, as a lack of good quality sleep will impact a person’s health and wellbeing, as well as work performance. Sleep deprived parents are likely to be less productive, more likely to make mistakes, and feel more emotional or sensitive.

2. Worries around job security

Many new parents will need to adjust their work commitments and responsibilities, in order to balance parenting and employment. They may need to reduce their workload, work part-time or remotely, or request more time off than usual.

It may be that they’ve returned from maternity or paternity leave, to find their role has changed and they feel replaced. All of this can cause worry and anxiety around job security and the potential for career progression.

3. Financial concerns and childcare costs

On top of this, having a child can significantly change somebody’s financial position – after all, there’s a whole new life they’re now providing for. For working parents, they may need to pay for childcare, which can put a real strain on a new family’s finances.

4. Perinatal mental health issues

Some new parents experience perinatal mental health issues such as postnatal depression, stress and anxiety, and they may need professional help to deal with it. Our recent research found that almost 1 in 3 parents had experienced perinatal mental health issues. It’s often assumed that postnatal depression is only a concern for new mothers, but it can affect fathers too.

Our research at Benenden Health also found that an eighth of perinatal mental illness sufferers said that they didn’t discuss their circumstances with their employer as they didn’t think they would be able to help. 8% said they thought it would harm their career, and a further 8% said they never told their employer as they were embarrassed about it. Clearly, many parents feel stigmatised so it's all the more important for employers to create a supportive environment for all new parents.

What support do new parents get at work?

Despite the challenges new parents face, over a third of UK professionals still don’t think their employers are doing enough to support new parents.

Of course, every employer is legally obliged to provide a basic level of support to parents. This includes offering the statutory paid maternity and paternity leave, providing new mothers with sufficient time and space for breastfeeding and ensuring they’re aware of all employees’ right to request flexible working options.

Why should you be a supportive employer to new parents?

Going above and beyond to support parents in your workforce will not only help them, but it’ll benefit your business too.  

1. It’s a unique opportunity to build staff loyalty – as your employees will appreciate and value the support they receive from their company at such a significant time in their lives.

2. You’ll build mutual respect - the way you treat your employees undoubtedly sets the tone for how they feel about their job and the company.

3. New parents bring new skills and experience that can benefit your company – multitasking, organisation, managing stress and a new perspective are just a few examples. The right support means they’re able to remain at work.

4. But you must be transparent and clear from the start - one of the most crucial ways any employer can provide reassurance and help to a new parent is to be transparent around the support they offer, so employees are clear from the start. 

Research suggests many new parents are left in the dark around parental policies. But the benefits and perks your company offers for new parents will have limited impact unless the employees know exactly what they can access and how. 

Practical tips to support new parents in the workplace

Being understanding about a new parent’s circumstances and its unpredictability is important.

Create a supportive environment

Let your employee know that you are there to support them as and when they need it. It’s not only after the baby is born that new parents will need workplace support. During a pregnancy, make sure your employee is aware of their options, like your paid maternity and paternity policies and any additional support they can access.  Re-assure them that they’re under no pressure to return to work until they’re ready – and then it’s up to them to proactively approach the company and discuss their preferences and needs.

Ask them if they’re happy for the company to keep in touch when they’re on leave – for example to send congratulations when the baby is born and to check on how they’re doing once in a while. They may prefer to be left in peace!

Communicate regularly

Once the employee decides they’re ready to return to work, an open dialogue should be established with line managers around the new parents’ needs, and their plan for returning to work.

Once they’re back, regular catch-ups will provide an opportunity to review their work commitments,  responsibilities  and support needs over time.

Provide financial help 

One of the main challenges is covering childcare costs for a new parent. Make sure you’re clear on any financial help your company can offer, such as subsidies for childcare assistance, healthcare plans and potential changes to their benefits package.

Benefits like these can make a huge difference to a new parent’s life, and reduce financial anxiety.

Offer flexible working options

One of the most common ways to help a new parent employee is to discuss and provide flexible working options. Studies show that 38% of women feel uncomfortable asking their boss for flexible hours in fear of being an inconvenience or being rejected. To alleviate some of their discomfort, show that they’re supported, understood and valued by the company.

Provide a 24/7 GP helpline

This is particularly beneficial to new working parents who may struggle getting to doctors’ appointments. They may also have many first-time health concerns about their child or themselves that they want to check with a professional to get peace of mind.

Help them get more sleep and rest

Provide new parents with tips on how to get better sleep, and how to deal with exhaustion.  Help employees get enough sleep by encouraging regular breaks during the working day, or even a comfortable napping area if appropriate.

Every business needs a diverse mix of skills and experience to truly thrive. Find out how to manage a multigenerational workforce and their wellbeing needs by downloading our free employer’s guide today.

Got a question and want to know more? Call us FREE on 0800 414 8179 today.


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Benenden Healthcare for Business provides an affordable, high quality, private healthcare solution to support all your employees. With easy setup and no exclusions on pre-existing medical conditions, we want to help make healthcare a standard of employment for everyone, rather than just a perk for the few. See how we can help you develop a healthcare solution that works for your whole business.