Looking ahead to this year’s Parents’ Week (22 to 28 October), I am alarmed that only 7% of us believe the UK is a family-friendly country. As a father, I find this unacceptable. As a food-focused entrepreneur, it reminds me that the retail sector has a huge amount to gain from better understanding how families work.
My wife and I started Ella’s Kitchen seven years ago with family at the forefront of our minds and after considering our own family’s needs, we created our products for modern families.
Running a business creates challenges for parents - whether around intensive working schedules, financial uncertainties, increased stress or other risks.
But being your own boss also has enormous benefits. For me, it meant I could pick my own hours. I often worked well into the night so that I could enjoy time during the day teaching my daughter to ride a bike and my son the joys of the trampoline.
More importantly, it meant I could demonstrate to them how exhilarating it is to seize an entrepreneurial opportunity and to do something in life you’re passionate about.
In such tough times, families are looking to consumer businesses that truly embrace them. But it’s all too easy for businesses to misunderstand families and neglect their needs. That’s why we are encouraging retailers and suppliers to join the Family Friendly charity scheme.
“Family wellbeing is vital for the UK’s happiness, health and wealth”
This scheme, run by the Family and Parenting Institute, allows an organisation to assess how family friendly it is, take steps to improve and proudly announce progress. Fundamentally, it benefits the bottom line by strengthening customer relationships.
Retail staff, as well as their customers, can benefit from the family-friendly philosophy. The reality is that millions of family members across Britain struggle to achieve the work/life balance they crave.
The scheme encourages member organisations to perceive members of staff as members of their family - and to understand their changing commitments in caring for children or for older relatives. Companies introducing genuinely family-friendly employment practices report greater productivity, enhanced morale and reduced absenteeism.
The UK retail sector employs more than three million people, many of them part-time working mothers. This is reflected at Ella’s Kitchen - where 74% of staff are female, a fifth part-time and almost half have kids.
Family wellbeing - especially the nurturing of children - is vital for the nation’s happiness, health and wealth. And family issues are finally on the agenda in Westminster. David Cameron has declared he wants the UK to be the most family-friendly country in Europe.
Parents’ Week will see the UK celebrate the hard work parents do, and hail the immense contribution they make to their children’s lives. So there has never been a better time to sign up to the Family Friendly scheme - join us and help to create a better UK for our future generations.