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Parent-Friendly Label Looks to Improve the Work Environment for Parents

by Eddie Rayner

Working parents balance their children’s school schedules and activities while balancing their own work deadlines, much like plate spinners at a Mardi Gras. Happily, however, employers looking to recruit and retain top talent increasingly recognise the need to cater to families engaged in this balancing act, introducing benefits such as flexible work schedules and paid parental leave. To support this welcome trend, Abu Dhabi Early Childhood Authority has launched the Parent-Friendly Label, with Acting Chief Culture Officer, DG Office, Laila Al Hassan, joining us to explain its implementation and objectives.

Education UAE: Can you tell us about the Parent-Friendly Label launch, how it came about, and what are its goals?

Laila: The Parent-Friendly Label (PFL) was jointly developed with business leaders in Abu Dhabi via focus groups and structured interviews. The purpose is to identify the best possible solutions to strengthen social and family bonds by improving the working environment for all parents and increasing their engagement, well-being, retention and productivity. This will also ultimately boost the economic growth and social welfare in Abu Dhabi.

This voluntary initiative suggests a range of criteria that organisations can implement so they can be recognised as a parent-friendly workplace and awarded with a Parent-friendly Label as a result.

Education UAE: What does PFL ask companies and organisations to do – childcare solutions, flexi-time, and remote working policies etc.?

Laila: There is a set of criteria upon which each application is assessed. Overall, a company is deemed ‘parent-friendly’ when it offers flexibility for working parents, demonstrates an understanding of the needs of families, welcomes back new mothers and fathers actively, and goes above and beyond the minimum legal requirements for maternity leave and paternity leave.

Education UAE: How do you encourage companies and organisations to adopt a parent-friendly welfare culture? How will the initiative be implemented?

Laila: We all know that an employee’s well-being plays a vital role in determining an organisation’s long-term success and efficacy. When an employee feels supported by their employer to balance their work and family commitments, they can better deal with stress and improves overall well-being. Being a parent-friendly company or organisation allows for a positive impact on recruitment, retention, loyalty and morale.

Any private sector, semi-government or third sector organisation with a trade license issued in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi is eligible to apply for the Parent-friendly Label. All applicants are assessed against 19 criteria spanning five categories by an independent third party as well as an independent judging panel made up of senior members from leading public institutions.

To ensure that the workplace culture is parent-friendly, organisations must also circulate a Workplace Culture Survey to their employees.

All applicants are assessed against 19 criteria spanning five categories

Education UAE: How does PFL help children in their development and well-being?

Laila: In short, children need attention. The PFL aims to improve the capabilities of working parents to efficiently contribute to the emotional, cognitive and behavioural development of their children during their early childhood, which will positively impact their development and well-being and further strengthen family bonds

Education UAE: This is a badly needed initiative. What has the feedback been like so far?

Laila: The response from organisations has been very positive and encouraging. This isn’t surprising because the initiative makes sense on many fronts.

For businesses, when employees feel supported by their employers to more effectively manage their work and family commitments, they are more productive and motivated to positively contribute to an organisation’s long-term growth and success. Being recognised as parent-friendly helps improve employee engagement as well as employer branding, thus having a positive impact on recruitment, retention, loyalty and morale.

For the community, the ages of 0-8 are the magical years when it comes to a child’s brain development. By the age of five, 90% of their brain has been developed. Therefore, when a workplace contributes to empowering parents to play a more active role in children’s lives during this period, it has a positive and lifelong impact on the child that extends to a wide range of long-term community benefits.

Education UAE: What do you think your biggest challenge is with PFL?

Laila: By far, it’s been getting employers to see the long-term value in investing in parent-friendly practices and policies in the workplace.

For the community, the ages of 0-8 are the magical years when it comes to a child’s brain development

Education UAE: Do you see this as a further shift from thinking about working moms as a problem to a modern reality and an asset?

Laila: I often wonder why, as working mothers, we haven’t normalised mentioning multi-tasking skills, time management skills and crisis-averting skills in job interviews and attributing them to motherhood. Mothers need to be calm, collected and resourceful in a crisis. We become adept at patching up wounds, explaining what the world means, and mediating tearful arguments with friends and siblings. Who wouldn’t want someone with those abilities on their team?

Education UAE: Mom-friendly companies also encourage men to take ample time for parenting – from taking leave to doing pick-up/drop-off, popping out for school moments, being home for dinner – and to showcase it proudly. Is this an important aspect of PFL?

Laila: It certainly is! The PFL isn’t just aimed at mothers. It’s also for fathers and any form of caregiver. Since the essence of the PFL is to strengthen family bonds and create a more nurturing environment for young children, there is an equal role that needs to be played by both parents alike. Being employed in a parent-friendly organisation would help them achieve this crucial goal.