Is your employer family friendly?

Helen Ilsley from the Executive Coaching Company outlines how you can check on what the best employers are doing when it comes to parent friendly policies.


The Executive Coaching Consultancy [ECC] created the Parental Fog Cross-Industry Index six years ago to highlight the need for the Times Top 100 Graduate Employers to actively market their support for working parents.

The Parental Fog Index [PFI] is a cross industry tool for employers to benchmark how well their organisation markets support as part of their talent management and gender balance strategies.It includes practical advice for employers to improve their support packages for working parents and how to market it to their competitive advantage.

It’s also a useful check for those wishing to pursue a fulfilling career and maintain a rich personal life. A company’s website is the first port of call and a cursory look can give you a feeling for whether this company is family-friendly. The PFI shows you what to look for.

The childcare crisis is forcing more women out of work and two thirds of businesses are failing on a basic measure of inclusion by not being clear about family-friendly policy for prospective employees. However, this year we have enjoyed seeing 31 companies improving their rating and 11 achieving the highest rating of Beacon status. One highlight is that the number of employers promoting support for working parents has increased by 23%.

There are also a few disappointing markers too though – with too few employers publishing basic details of paternity leave and pay compared to those for maternity. It’s becoming increasingly obvious that the route to gender equity at work is to support policies which promote gender equity at home. Although men are showing a much greater desire to be involved in sharing the domestic load where childcare is concerned, we still have corporate cultures where that is not welcome and the career penalty for a man taking significant parental leave can be harsh.

Another mitigating factor in a company’s success at retaining parents is their attitude to remote working. The pandemic exposed us to the biggest worldwide experiment on the effect on productivity of working from home one could possibly imagine. The findings seemed, at first glance, to prove conclusively that work still gets done from home and this in turn seemed to challenge the  deeply embedded habit of relying on people’s presence in the office to assess performance.

Whilst employers seem now to be encouraging more attendance at the office there does seem to be a mismatch between employer and employee expectation in this regard. Employees for the most part want to continue to have the autonomy to work from anywhere whereas employers are more cognisant of the difficulties that an all-remote workforce can present, such as a lack of employee engagement  and insufficient opportunity to co-create and learn from each other. We are still feeling our way on the topic of hybrid working and the employers who can successfully navigate this new context with parents front of mind stand to win the war for talent in my view.

The Parental Fog Index is our way of continuing to highlight the importance of parents and their needs to employers with the ultimate pay-off of more women leaders.

*Helen Ilsley is Director of Business Development & an Executive Coach at The Executive Coaching Consultancy Ltd.

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