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Parents returning to the workplace

One question that comes up from time to time, with the candidates I work with, is whether an agency will be a good fit if they’re a returning parent. Not necessarily immediately after shared parental leave, but even if it’s within a few months of having a child, and therefore a few months out of the PR game.

It’s a question that works both ways, to the agency and the candidate. We’re getting much better at seeing the opportunity in different peoples’ situations, and with returning parents, it needn’t be a square peg and a round hole when it comes to finding a new role.

The old idea that people on leave will have missed nurturing their relationships (the boozy lunches with the FT they’re really talking about) doesn’t mean they’re any less valuable. It’s a candidate-short market, so it’s on hiring managers to find the positives to hiring new parents. And there are many.

Firstly, from my experience, new parents become the time management kings and queens, almost by osmosis. Yes they may leave the office bang on half five, or make more flexible arrangements, but in any true agency of adults, they’ll be the ones maximising efficiency to get their jobs done. As a country, the UK works long hours with less productivity than many - new parents aren’t part of this problem, they can arguably be part of the solution!

HR need not panic that it’ll lead to everyone running out the door with them either - people work at different speeds and in different ways, and teams will quickly iron out any kinks. New parents are often the first to log back on when the baby is down for the night, not that agencies should ever expect this.

So it’s an interesting balancing act. Some agencies pride themselves on their culture, which can still often translate into them actually meaning the late night work drinks of the younger members of the team. Calmer heads can prove a useful counterbalance to the ‘partying till 4am’ vibes some PR agencies can slip into from time to time, and young parents are rarely in that group!

Ultimately, we need to keep chasing the full diversity rainbow. It is achievable, and it involves hiring and developing people from all ages, all classes and backgrounds and groups. Returning parents can be a huge asset to an agency but only, as ever, if they’re enabled to be.


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