New report reveals actions to drive equality for working parents

Report reveals 12 priority actions for boards, people leads and the government.

equality for working parents


A new report, published by organisational and executive coaching practice, WOMBA (Work, Me and the Baby) in partnership with Hult International Business School (Ashridge) has revealed 12 evidence-based actions that will drive significant and positive change for working parents and organisations in the UK.

The priority actions for Boards to drive equal opportunities for working parents aims to equip boards and organisational leaders with a better insight into the experience of working parents, and how best to drive equal opportunities for mums and dads in their organisations. The report highlights the importance of collaboration between people leads, boards and the government.

The report is the result of more than two years’ qualitative research which has exposed the challenges working mums and dads experience as they transition from worker to working parent*, and the barriers people leads (HR, DEI, people management and working parent leads) and organisations are facing as they strive to create equitable and inclusive workplaces.

Dr Carina Paine Schofield, Leadership Lab Director at Hult International Business School (Ashridge), says, “Although many organisations recognise the huge value in supporting working parents, many fail to implement significant or lasting change. One of the critical issues is that the working parents’ agenda does not get sufficient buy-in, or backing from, its board and leaders. Notably our research with WOMBA highlighted that organisations see a profound impact on company culture and progress when the board is driving the working parents’ agenda from the top.”

The research with people leads highlighted that whilst the government is responsible for some of the barriers – such as childcare and its respective costs – many barriers are within organisations’ control. For instance, in the research it was reported that complex policies, inflexible working models, ill-equipped line managers, outdated mindsets and gender stereotypes all stand in the way of change.

There was also a belief that working parents are significantly affected by inflexible working policies that do not reflect their day-to-day realities. Whilst the negative impact of organisations pulling back on flexible and remote working commitments made during Covid-19 was also highlighted.

What was clear was that to drive significant and positive change for working parents and organisations in the UK, boards, people leads and the UK government all need to work together; all playing their part to shift the dial.

Helen Sachdev, director at WOMBA, says: “We recognise how complex this is and it’s important to acknowledge there is no quick- fix or one-size-fits all approach to the working parent experience. However, based on our own extensive experience and the insight gathered from working parents and people leads, it’s clear that we need a joined-up approach across organisations – boards and people leads – and the UK government to create a positive and significant change for working parents. This is not about one or the other here – everyone must work together to truly shift the dial. Society is changing and organisational and public policy needs to catch up, fast.”

The 12 priority actions to drive change for working parents

Priority actions for the board

  • Take ownership for leading the working parents’ agenda
  • Enhance and equalise parental leave
  • Encourage a culture of openness and trust
  • Listen to the voices of working parents

Priority actions for people leads

  • Introduce structured hybrid working
  • Develop a flexible working culture
  • Provide specialist support for working parents
  • Tailor, flex and promote policies
  • Provide line managers with additional support and training

Priority actions for government

  • Reform parental leave
  • Evolve social policies to make parenting more gender neutral
  • Reform childcare provision

Adds Sachdev, “Gender gaps in employment, working hours and wages widen after workers become parents. Leaders need to focus attention at this stage by introducing equal and extended parental leave policies and flexible working models. These need to be introduced within an aligned culture and supported by organisational practices. Both parents need to feel they can use the arrangements without detriment to their careers. It’s critical that leaders widen access to what has traditionally been regarded as ‘policies for mums’ and create a culture in which all parents can fulfil their caring responsibilities and progress their careers.”

To download the report, visit:

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