The recipe for an inclusive and diverse workplace culture contains many ingredients. One of those is supporting parents and carers to participate in the workforce. It’s not always easy to find balance and a pathway to thriving within this dual role – especially in a working environment that continues to be shaped by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, IFM aims to enable its people to find balance and thrive through our parental leave policies and a range of parent/carer support programs.

A growing body of research indicates that workplaces that reflect the communities in which they operate, embrace a diversity of views, promote an environment free from discrimination, and foster connectedness and belonging are likely to perform better over the long term. This is also our experience at IFM and it is the reason inclusion and diversity (I&D) is one of our strategic priority areas. An important part of this is our focus on ensuring inclusive policies and procedures.

In early 2021, we updated IFM’s corporate parental leave policy with the objective of encouraging and enabling all the parents in our workforce to fully participate in early-age child care. We want to support parents to stay connected to family and return to work in a way that works for their family unit.

One of the key enhancements we’ve made to our parental leave policy is removing the ‘primary caregiver’ requirement to access extended paid leave, where such references previously existed. This means that all eligible parents, that is those who have had or adopted a child in the last two years, can access the extended IFM Paid Parental Leave. It also means that parents can now take their leave concurrently with their spouse.

This change removes the indirect assumption about who is the primary care giver in a family and highlights that there is no one-size-fits-all approach. It reflects our commitment to gender equity by ensuring equitable access to the extended paid leave option, and it also supports and encourages shared child care responsibilities.

Mohammed, a Senior Associate in the Strategy and Policy team, described his three months of parental leave in early 2021 as a great opportunity to experience – first hand - key milestones in his son’s development. He said, “This time allowed me to be involved in every aspect of caregiving, which helped to build my confidence and abilities as a father, as well as my capacity to be a supportive partner.”

IFM is pleased to see an increased proportion of male employees, like Mohammed, taking longer periods of parental leave, and we believe this reflects IFM’s focus on inclusion and diversity. In the 12 months ending 30 June 2019, 18 per cent of people using IFM Paid Parental Leave were male. This figure rose to 39 per cent in the following year, and for the 12 months ending 31 May 2021(YTD), the figure is 29 per cent.

IFM’s parental leave policy dovetails with our flexible working policy, which outlines options for working flexibly, including part-time hours, start and finish times outside of standard hours and job sharing arrangements.

Mohammed said he has also benefited from flexible working arrangements for his return to work. “By returning on a temporary part-time basis, I’ve been able to ease my way back into work while continuing to be involved in my son’s care and providing my partner with the support she needs to see through her first term of full-time graduate studies.”

In addition to the benefits contained in our parental leave and flexible working policies, we have a global partnership with Parents at Work, which provides all employees with access to a range of benefits before, during and after parental leave. Benefits include 1:1 coaching to support parents’ transition back to work after leave and access to an online learning platform. Additionally, we maintain a partnership with City Parents in the UK and Work|Life Links in Australia.

IFM will continue supporting and enabling its people to find balance and thrive as we focus on fostering an inclusive workplace of engaged people.