UAE companies challenged to offer parent-friendly policies to 'reduce reliance on nannies'

Government survey shows average child in Abu Dhabi spends up to 70 per cent of their week in a nanny's care

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Abu Dhabi has launched a nationwide initiative that will award companies a parent-friendly label if they support their employees and make it easier for them to balance family and work responsibilities.

After previously being limited to Abu Dhabi, in its second year, the initiative has been rolled out across the UAE by the Abu Dhabi Early Childhood Authority (ECA). The launch ceremony was held on Tuesday.

PFL (level 1) will be given to companies that offer more than what the law stipulates and PFL plus will be for organisations that meet or exceed global best practices. Once awarded, the label is valid for two years and is subject to review.

Employers can earn the parent-friendly label (PFL) and parent-friendly plus (PFL plus) label if they meet some or more of the following criteria:

Children in Abu Dhabi spend an average of 60 to 70 per cent of their week with nannies and 30 to 40 per cent with their parents
ECA survey
  • 90 paid calendar days maternity leave for PFL; 136 days for PFL plus
  • Mandatory paternity leave: more than five working days for PFL and more than 10 days for PFL plus — UAE labour law allows fathers to take five days off
  • Fully paid maternity leave in cases of stillbirth after six months, two weeks paid leave in case of miscarriage, additional maternity leave in cases of multiple births in a single pregnancy
  • Flexible work hours policy, including job share, part-time, annualised hours and other options
  • Specific provision for parents to work flexibly to attend school events
  • At least two hours of nursing break per day
  • Availability of on-site, private and hygienic maternity room
  • Well-being programmes to support emotional and mental health
  • Training or awareness sessions for managers to enact these polices

Sana Mohamed Suhail, director general of ECA, said the initiative aims to offer a better work-life balance for parents with newborns and young children up to 8 years. It will also help organisations to attract and retain talent.

In the first cycle of 2021, six organisations in Abu Dhabi — Etihad Airways, Emirates Nature — WWF, HSBC, Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company (Masdar), Abu Dhabi Motorsports Management and Silal Food and Technology — earned the label.

“It is no secret that parenthood is a juggling act. Working parenthood adds another layer of complexity,” Ms Suhail said.

“This programme supports parents to balance life and work and empowers them to provide the best care for their children.”

ECA said research shows it is crucial for parents to play an active role in the early development stage of their children.

But many families have to make trade-offs and compromise on family time to meet work expectations.

An ECA survey showed that “children in Abu Dhabi spend an average of 60 to 70 per cent of their week with nannies and 30 to 40 per cent with their parents”.

“Fifty-six per cent of people working in the UAE want more emphasis on employee well-being and work-life balance and 89 per cent will recommend their organisation if they see this is happening.”

Erica Sosna, an expert in the future of work who participated virtually at the launch ceremony, said it was a win-win for companies, too.

“The resulting uptick in loyalty, retention and performance is substantial,” she said.

“Google experienced a 50 per cent higher retention rate among female employees when they extended maternity leave from three to five months.

“Parent-friendly workplaces have less absenteeism, less sick leave and less burnout.”

Success of the first cycle

During the first cycle, ECA said it received 18 applications but only six made the cut. About 20,500 employees were engaged and more than 6,600 young children benefited from the programme, Ms Suhail said.

During the launch ceremony, employers who earned a PFL in the first cycle spoke about the policies they adopted and how their staff had benefited.

Rasna Al Khamis, director of marketing and engagement at Emirates Nature — WWF, said the non-profit organisation has a remote work policy for parents of young children during the summer months.

“This helps families to travel and be with children but still work those months,” she said.

HSBC has incorporated an additional five days of parental leave.

“This is in addition to their annual leave,” said Manal Awad, head of international subsidiary banking at HSBC.

Ahmed Lari, executive director of finance at Abu Dhabi Motorsports Management, said the company allows parents the flexibility to work from home for an unlimited number of days from July to August.

“As a father of four kids, and with my wife also working, that allows one of us to be home,” said Mr Lari.

Application for the second cycle of PFL is open and the deadline is May 12, 2023.

Updated: November 02, 2022, 2:51 AM