How important is it for employers to consider and support an employee’s personal life – that is, their ‘life outside of work’?

Consider this: what impact would it have on business outcomes and individual lives if workplaces were more family-friendly?

The reality is that anything that impacts the wellbeing of your employees at work or at home will always either enhance or drain workplace productivity and culture. So it seems fairly obvious that it’s good for business to support employees with their work life balance needs. But why is there still so little focus on an employee’s family life when this plays such a significant factor in overall wellbeing?

Each year the comprehensive study – The Modern Families Index – is conducted in the UK to address just this. In particular, it looks to explore how working parents combine work and family life. This year the focus is on flexible working and the reality of flexible jobs from the perspective of the working parent and it comes with some great (and achievable) recommendations for employers. And, how employers can support equality of work and care.

The Index clearly shows the power of flexibility as a retention tool and as an attractor (58 per cent said a flexible employer would positively encourage employees to stay; 51 per cent said they would recommend an employer because of their family- friendly policies). Both mothers and fathers reported that they would stay in their jobs because of the flexibility they had.

The Modern Families Index

Family Friendly Recommendations for Employers

The report highlights some of the changes the UK government are already taking to address some of these issues. They are proposing a “duty on employers to consider whether a job can be done flexibly and to make that clear when advertising roles”.

Additionally, it provides immediate, medium and long-term recommendations for employers.

Highlights include:


On Parents and Progression . . .

“The Index shows that part-time work negatively impacts promotion and affects more mothers than fathers."

"Whilst working reduced hours is a positive choice in terms of family and work balance, it should not come at the cost of career progression. The intersection of hours and pay is well documented, with the part-time pay gap widening to 30 per cent by the time a child is 13. When organisations value presenteeism, reduced-hours workers are at a disadvantage. Too often, being visible and working late are still the best way to get on at work, and parents in the Index still report that presenteeism is often part of company culture and is expected by line managers.”

The Modern Families Index

Recommendations: “Challenge assumptions that reduced hours means reduced commitment. Start tracking performance appraisals to ensure that flexible workers, and in particular part-time workers, are not penalised by a workplace culture that values long hours and presenteeism. Assess the career opportunities for part-time workers. Are there clear routes of progression to senior levels for staff that work part- time? Demonstrate it is possible to truly progress whilst working part-time.”


On Flexibility . . .

“Where workplace culture emphasises the value of long hours and presenteeism, flexibility will struggle to deliver.”

The Modern Families Index

Recommendations: “Understand the culture of the organisation and bear in mind changing expectations. The Index shows that younger parents have different values when it comes to parenting and balancing work and family. Are you set to meet these changing expectations? Who is setting the culture presently, and how will this change in the future?”


On Technology . . .

“Anytime, anywhere’ doesn’t mean ‘all the time, everywhere.”

The Modern Families Index

Recommendations: “. . . the potential work-life benefits of technology are undermined by organisational culture, reinforced by manager expectation and jobs that have expanded beyond the normal working day.”



On Supporting Equality of Work and Care . . .

“Use flexible recruitment and job design to reshape and adapt work to meet employee expectations and set the dial of flexibility to normal. Communicate with employees about their rights around family-friendly working. For example, telling fathers that Shared Parental Leave is a legal right has positive effects on intentions to use it.”

The Modern Families Index

Recommendations: “Develop human-sized jobs that don’t require long hours or unreasonable workloads. Make sure that you are aware of blind spots: parents still report that it is more acceptable to take time off for childcare rather than eldercare despite caring for another adult becoming more common.”

Where is Australia’s Modern Families Index?

The Modern Families Index is an annual piece of important research undertaken by Working Families and Bright Horizons in the UK. We don’t have anything quite like this is Australia which is why Parents At Work is working together with a group of corporate organisations and not-for-profit agencies to do just this – a Working Families Survey. If your organisation would like to be involved please email to receive a partnership pack.

Modern Working Families