Finding a Family-Friendly Employer: What to Look For & Questions to Ask

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Trying to find a well-paying job that you’re excited about is difficult in and of itself, but finding one at a family-friendly company that respects your need for a flexible job and work-life integration can feel downright impossible. 

It’s common for an employer to tout their benefits, leadership teams, family-friendly culture and flexibility while recruiting, because these are things nearly every job seeker is looking for in an employer. In fact, a study by the Harvard Business Review found that 96% of workers want or need flexibility in their job. However, that same study also found that only 47% of workers actually get it, so there is a disconnect in what a flexible job looks like to an employer versus an employee. 

In order to get an accurate picture of a company’s ability and willingness to support working parents, this disconnect should be addressed head-on. 

Finding a family-friendly employer will require a bit of research, and you’ll need a firm idea of what “family-friendly” looks like for you specifically. Here are some things to keep in mind during your job search.

Finding a Family-Friendly Employer: Things to Look For & Questions to Ask

Benefits packages and family leave policies look different at family-friendly companies

One of the easiest ways to assess whether or not a company is truly family-friendly is by looking at the benefits they offer employees. For instance, what does their maternity/paternity/family leave policy look like? Even if this benefit no longer applies to you (or doesn’t—yet), it’s a good way to gauge how much a company respects and values a family’s needs.

Another possible clue is the company’s PTO policy. Do you get separate banks for vacation and sick days, or are they both rolled into one? On the surface, 15 days of PTO may seem pretty good, but kids get sick and it won’t take long for cold and flu season to eat up those days. 

The rollover policy can also be telling because if the majority of days don’t roll over, the company likely encourages employees to actually use their vacation days. 

Other benefits to look at include healthcare options, do they pay a portion of family premiums or just employee premiums? What about childcare benefits or reimbursements? Do they offer orthodontics insurance?   

Once you have all of the benefit information, compare it to those offered by companies that are known for being family friendly to help you see where this company falls. For example, Etsy’s best-in-class benefits package offers employees six months of paid maternity/paternity leave, mental health benefits, backup childcare, 401K matching and contributions, adoption and family planning benefits, and more. It’s a high bar to reach, and a company that is truly family-friendly will offer something similar, even if it’s a pared down version. 

Family-friendly employers typically have women and parents in leadership roles

When you’re researching a potential employer, look closely at who makes up their c-suite team, executives and board of directors. Not only will this give you an idea of how they value women and diversity, but it can also give you a look into whether or not parents of school-age kids are able to rise that far. 

Take a look at each leader’s company profile to see if there is any mention of their life outside of work, specifically their family life. If all leader profiles focus solely on business accomplishments, it’s not necessarily a red flag. However, if the organization’s applicant page puts a spotlight on their family-friendly culture, those profiles are definitely something to be mindful of during the recruitment process.

The organization’s interpretation of “family-friendly” should align with your own

Before entering the interview stage of your job search, form a solid definition of what “family-friendly” looks like for you. Not everyone has the same definition, and for some companies, “family-friendly” really just translates into “we tolerate the fact that you have a family.” 

By having a firm understanding of what family-friendly means to you, you will be able to go into the interview stage ready to ask specific questions to determine if a company is a good fit and lines up with what you are looking for. 

Come up with a list of the benefits/policies that are most important to you as well as a list of things you’d like to see but would be willing to compromise on for the right opportunity. 

  • Are you willing to work or check email outside of your standard office hours
  • What if the organization isn’t large enough for FMLA protection?
  • Do you need the option to work from home as needed? 
  • What amount of paid sick time is acceptable for you? 
  • Will you need a flexible schedule so you can attend school events
  • Are you looking for additional benefit options like orthodontics coverage or company-sponsored life insurance? 

A standard HR benefits summary may not go into this depth or detail, so you’ll likely need to directly ask about what is most important to you during your interview.

Remember, “family-friendly” and true work-life integration goes beyond flexibility and formal policies. In a recent study by The Mom Project, 78% of women said they need not only the option for flexibility but also for their employer to respect that option and truly support their need for and pursuit of balance. 

📖 Read more: How to Assess a Company's Culture

Finding a family-friendly employer does not guarantee a respectful boss

Once you’ve found a family-friendly company you want to work for, use the interview stage as an opportunity to not only further evaluate the organization but to also assess the person you would be reporting to. You’ll interact with your direct supervisor on a daily basis, so you want to ensure they share the same commitment to a family-friendly workplace as the company itself does. 

While discussing the job, try to get an idea of what the current team looks like: 

  • Are there other successful and well-respected parents in place? 
  • When you bring up your kids, how does the supervisor engage with the conversation? 
  • What are their feelings on parents adjusting their schedules when their kids are sick or if their school is canceled unexpectedly? 

The company’s general work culture is certainly important, but your immediate-team culture is arguably more important since it will impact you more closely. You want to work for a boss who will enforce family-friendly policies and will respect your life outside of work.

Family-friendly companies DO exist

In an ideal world, every company would value work-life integration and offer family-friendly benefits to their employees. It’s not just nice, it’s a smart business decision.

The Mom Project’s mission is to help bring that knowledge to the forefront of business. As part of our efforts, we work directly with companies to analyze their benefits and how they treat women in the workplace. We offer recommendations and give them a plan to make the workplace better for moms and all their employees.

Finding a family-friendly employer that meets your unique needs will probably take some time and you may have to get to the interview stage before you know for sure if a company is a fit or not. The process can feel a bit tedious, but the good news is that more and more organizations are making significant changes to better attract and accommodate working parents, so finding a quality family-friendly employer is getting easier. For now, though, just go into your search with confidence, optimism and the assurance of what family-friendly looks like for you. 

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