Maternity needs to matter to more than mothers

Last week's PRWeek survey revealed that 69 per cent of respondents believe the industry is losing experienced professionals because of poor maternity practices.

Improving maternity practices can’t happen soon enough, says Dee Gibbs
In the face of these overwhelming statistics, it’s clear that more needs to be done to support working parents.  

With a workforce that’s more than two-thirds female, improving maternity practices can’t happen soon enough. 

Providing better support for working parents not only benefits the parents themselves, but also their employers and colleagues. 

And while it may involve some flexibility on an employer’s behalf, the value is huge. 

Offering strong maternity packages encourages employees to stay loyal to their employers, which in turn helps to create a more established and experienced team. 

Supporting working mothers to stay in PR also helps to avoid the 'junior-ising' of the industry as a whole by retaining experienced practitioners.

Encouraging women to stay in the industry and further their careers in PR (irrespective of whether or not they have children) is also really important. 

Having a senior team that isn’t just made up of men, but comprises both women and men, is a huge asset to any PR company; a mix of ages and genders helps to create a more diverse workforce, providing a range of skill sets. 

At Liberty Communications, our two associate directors, Jen and Elena, have small children. 

By offering strong support both during maternity and after, we’ve been able to retain their knowledge and experience. 

This ensures that junior team members are able to benefit from their expertise, leading to a stronger overall team. 

As the industry starts to consider what it can do to develop its maternity packages, there are plenty of tactics that PR companies can, and should, adopt to support working parents and further the industry as a whole.

While working from home, flexible and part-time working are common methods for supporting working parents.

It’s helpful to think outside the box and consider what will really make a difference to parents. 

Offering your team an extra half-day per quarter in addition to holiday allowance, for example, costs a business nothing but gives parents greater flexibility to attend things like school events. 

A generous allowance of 'emergency days' can also prove vital for parents to counter all the bugs that children pick up. 

During maternity leave, keeping in touch (KIT) days are a vital resource, and one the PR industry should fully embrace. 

KIT days not only enable team members on maternity to stay updated, but allow businesses to use the person’s skills and knowledge, whether it’s for agency matters, client meetings or new business pitches. 

After coming back from maternity, phasing back into work can be key. 

Both Jen and Elena found that starting off working two to three days per week then building up to four was beneficial, and team members tend to really appreciate their employer offering them flexibility. 

When thinking about how to support working parents, it’s also important to understand that it’s not all about women. 

Strong paternity packages grant both parents greater freedom and that should not be forgotten.  
Of course, many of these benefits, particularly those around flexible working practices, shouldn’t just be reserved for working mothers. 

They go a long way towards balancing a fulfilling work life with childcare commitments, or whatever team members need and want to pursue beyond the world of PR. 

As we all know, PR can be a demanding career choice, so we strongly believe in ensuring that it doesn’t take over and that our team can ensure a life outside the office.

Dee Gibbs is the founder and global chief executive of Liberty Communications

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