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16 Feb 2023
by Jennifer Liston-Smith

Attraction and retention tops employers’ list of priorities

Jennifer Liston-Smith, head of thought leadership at Bright Horizons reflects on key themes in the world of combining work and family for organisations, parents and carers.

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With the labour market still tight, employers continue to focus on retaining their talented employees and attracting skilled people, while mental and financial wellbeing continue to be a focus for investment, as do family benefits.

Getting the economically inactive back to work

So how will job vacancies be filled? With the government against the idea of bringing in more workers from overseas, the Department for Work and Pensions has been exploring new ways to bring back the half a million economically inactive working age adults to the workforce.

This group is weighted towards the over 50s and despite some signs of a ‘great unretirement’, largely prompted by the cost of living crisis, there is still concern over a surprising number of older workers having fallen out of the workforce. There are mixed views on the value of possible incentive schemes to encourage their return, such as exempting over-50s returners from income tax for six months to a year or enabling people on sickness benefits to retain their value while beginning to earn again.

PwC predicts that 300,000 workers will return during 2023, purely based on the natural ebb and flow of the workforce and the observation that the UK and US are the only major economies still seeing more economic inactivity than pre-pandemic. People Management points out that employers wishing to attract this skilled and experienced group will need to show flexibility, wellbeing programmes and support for carers.

Our 2022 Work+Family Snapshot (client employee survey) underlines the need to support carers. It showed that 81% who have adult or eldercare responsibilities had experienced care breakdowns in the preceding 12 months. After a positive experience of employer-sponsored back-up care, 87% of all employees said it enhanced their wellbeing and 88% said they were more likely to recommend their employer to others. 

Our 2022 Modern Families Index showed 74% of people caring for elderly relatives would be looking to change jobs in the following 12 months and that 75% of those with adult/eldercare responsibilities would need to consider eldercare options before accepting a new job or promotion. And this is not a gendered concern: more men than women indicated this. So, employers looking to attract older workers can get ahead by ensuring their programmes for carers are highlighted along with their other benefits.

Employers increasingly want to offer support with childcare

A recent Parliamentary debate confirmed widespread concerns about the lack of availability of affordable childcare for working parents. The Local Government Association sums it up: “Challenges caused by the systematic underfunding of early years provision are being exacerbated by the rising cost of living and inflationary pressures. This is negatively impacting the financial viability of early years providers, the quality and access of childcare provision, and the availability of good support for children with special education needs and disabilities (SEND).”

This is a pressing time for employers to ensure all parents can access the care and early education they need, in order to perform and flourish at work. We have seen a rise in enquiries about how support can be arranged. An onsite workplace nursery or partnership with a nearby nursery brings tax and NI savings for employees and NI savings for employers.

Employers are seeing it as important to act now to support employees rather than wait for reform. After consultations, discussions and a change in prime minister, it appears that earlier cost-saving proposals have been put on hold

Meanwhile, our Parents under Pressure (2022) research shows that over half of parents (53%) are now either occasionally or regularly doing without childcare while working and only 18% are happy working from home without formal care. Over half of those managing without care (55%) said it was a struggle, but they either couldn’t afford more paid childcare (35%) or couldn’t find the care they need (20%).

Family is still top of mind: support is timely

In our 2022 Work+Family Snapshot, there was a very high priority placed on family life. When asked to reflect on the last 12 months, nearly 6 in 10 employees (58%) stated family had become a higher priority than before. This was a 10 percentage point rise on the 2021 figure. This trend was especially marked in the 18-34 age group, with two-thirds (67%) putting greater emphasis on family.

In an uncertain climate, it’s vital for leaders to convey a compelling – and inclusive – sense of vision, to pay attention to the employee experience, and to support people’s day-to-day lives, including of course, family life.

In partnership with Bright Horizons Work+Family Solutions

Bright Horizons is dedicated to providing the best in class work+family solutions.

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