Dubai: Did you know that children in Abu Dhabi spend an average of 60 to 70 per cent of their week with their nannies and only 30 to 40 per cent with their parents. When Abu Dhabi’s Early Childhood Authority (ECA) launched the ‘parent-friendly workplace’ label this year, they highlighted how working families in the UAE often need to make difficult trade-offs in order to satisfy work requirements.
In order to support working parents and new families, ECA launched a drive, encouraging companies in the UAE to adopt more parent-friendly practices and policies, which would have long-term benefits for both the companies as well as the UAE community.
Benefits of being a parent-friendly workplace
From a child development perspective, ECA’s label focusses specifically on families that have children aged up to eight years old. This is because, by the time the child is five, their brain would have already reached 90 per cent of its internal structure development.
Pressure on young parents can also lead to a negative impact on the parents’ or child’s health, family bonding as well as employee satisfaction and retention.
- 50 per cent reduction in female turnover when Google increased paid maternity leave from 12 to 18 weeks.
- 30 per cent of companies with experience implementing parent-friendly policies found them cost-effective.
- 77 per cent of Australian employees consider extended parental leave a factor that increases company attractiveness.
- 18 per cent reduction in the likelihood of mothers experiencing depression throughout their lives due to extended parental leave.
- Improved nursing support leads to decrease in employee sick leave, as employees miss work less often because breastfed infants experience fewer and shorter illnesses.
Source: Abu Dhabi Early Childhood Authority
What is the ‘parent-friendly label’?
The label is a voluntary programme that provides a range of criteria that organisations can adopt, to be recognised and awarded by the ECA. Some examples of what makes a workplace parent-friendly is offering flexibility for working parents, understanding the needs of families, welcoming back new mothers and fathers actively and going above and beyond the minimum legal requirements for maternity leave and paternity leave.
The label has two categories - PFL (level 1) will be given to companies that offer more than what the UAE laws stipulate, while the ‘PFL plus’ label is for organisations that meet or exceed global best practices. Once awarded, the label is valid for two years and is subject to review.
Criteria for a parent-friendly label to be awarded
There are 19 criteria (both mandatory or optional), falling within five categories:
1. Parental leave granted to women before and after the birth or foster care of a child, to allow mothers to heal, nurture, care for and bond with their child.
2. Parental leave granted to men before and after the birth or foster care of a child, to allow fathers to nurture, care for and bond with their family.
3. Special leave provisions for prenatal or foster care appointments, illness during pregnancy, miscarriage, stillbirth or loss.
4. Employees are provided with support as they depart on, remain on and return from, extended parental leave through regular manager communication, transitional flexible work arrangements and re-integration programmes.
5. Employee receives benefits while on unpaid leave such as continuity of their health insurance, ability to apply for roles to progress career, access to organisational communications, surveys and trainings, and inclusion in remuneration reviews, team events and activities.
6. Have a documented flexible work policy - this policy places focus on output and outcomes achieved rather than set hours of work.
7. Entitlement for employees to work remotely for short periods to accommodate caring responsibilities or care emergencies e.g. loss of childcare or childcare illness.
8. Employees working flexibly are able to progress in their careers, and organisational processes provide fair review of performance for those working flexibly.
9. Employees are able to take paid breaks from work to pump or nurse their baby, where applicable.
10. Employees are supported by their employers to access childcare support, including when childcare is not available, such as during school holidays.
11. Information and resources are made available for employees on relevant topics including babies, toddlers, children, and Children of Determination specifically.
12. Employees caring for a Child of Determination can access additional support and/or benefits through their employer.
13. Programmes and services available to promote the emotional, mental and physical wellbeing of employees and their families.
14. Employee rights are protected and cannot be undermined due to eligible parental leave or the utilisation of nursing hours.
15. Dedicated support for women to advance in their careers given the specific challenges they often face in balancing family and work responsibilities.
16. Managers are knowledgeable of parent-friendly policies and implement them in line with the intention for which they were created. Employees feel comfortable and supported utilising the parent-friendly policies that are available to them.
17. Parent-friendly policies are documented and promoted within the organisation to all employees.
18. Organisations review the utilisation of parent-friendly policies, including identifying potential areas for improvement, and use that intelligence to inform policy changes.
19. Organisations can illustrate that they have collected feedback from employees on parent-friendly policies, have introduced creative solutions to meet employee needs, and can demonstrate with data the impact of these initiatives.
This year, in the first cycle of presenting the ‘parent-friendly’ label to organisations, ECA recognised six organisations in the UAE. Applications for Cycle 2 have opened from November 1, 2022 and companies have up to May 12 next year to register for the label. Companies can apply for the label by visiting the ECA website – www.eca.gov.ae