Last reviewed 27 February 2019

Recruitment strategies implemented to supplement the existing workforce, or replace those who leave, are some of the key processes that will be overseen by managers. After all, business success is heavily influenced by the performance of employees. To fill over 3000 new roles created by expansion plans, the hospitality chain Travelodge is implementing a new internal recruitment plan targeting unemployed parents — is this a workable strategy for all organisations?

Before implementing its internal recruitment plans, Travelodge assigned YouGov with surveying unemployed parents, asking them questions on the employment challenges they faced. In its key finding, the survey revealed that a significant 86% of respondents wished to return to work but 59% highlighted that the biggest challenge to this was the unavailability of roles which allowed flexibility around school run demands. A further challenge identified by the survey included 61% of respondents felt that staying at home due to childcare demands meant they had lost confidence and, as a result, felt concerned about a return to the workplace.

All roles filled through this recruitment strategy will be employed on a contract with guaranteed hours, rather than zero hours’ contracts, and Travelodge has also outlined five steps that will help its ambition to support unemployed parents back into work, as below.

  1. Providing online careers advice to unemployed parents seeking to return to work through the company’s website.

  2. Providing flexibility and flexible working hours to allow working parents to structure their work responsibilities around their home life.

  3. Ensuring internal benefits are available to these workers, including discounted stays in company hotels.

  4. Implementing a comprehensive training programme and providing new starters with a ”buddy” at the commencement of employment to help them settle in quickly.

  5. Ensuring new starters can access the internal management programme, offering further training and development.

When describing its intentions behind the recruitment plan, Travelodge made reference to how it was preparing for “post-Brexit Britain” by introducing the programme to help mums and dads return to work around their childcare responsibilities. In times of uncertain applicant pools, especially with current fears regarding the availability of workers from the EU and European Economic Area (EEA), organisations can focus on untapped talent pools such as unemployed parents. Parents will have a wealth of expertise and experience in their profession before becoming a parent, and these skills can be brought back into the working environment by recruiting from this extensive pool.

Where recruitment plans focus on those who wish to get back into work, but are perhaps facing challenges such as organising childcare commitments around work responsibilities, organisations that provide employment roles that recognise, and embrace, these difficulties will often reap the rewards. An organisation that is forward-thinking and flexible will be more successful in recruiting a working parent who is satisfied in their role and is fully engaged while at work. After all, Travelodge’s survey found that over 30% of parents surveyed wished to return to work to use their mind and adapt new skills, rather than stay at home. Working parents are also likely to be more loyal to the organisation that gave them their chance to return to work or progress their career around their familial duties. Again, out of surveyed parents, 67% indicted a wish to “climb the career ladder” alongside their childcare commitments. Organisations might even find that these are their hardest working members of staff simply due to the faith that has been invested in them and the opportunity provided.

Before simply targeting unemployed parents, organisations will need to assess their recruitment plans and internal strategies to ensure these are fit for purpose. Areas which can be reviewed include the below.

Flexible working

Positive and effective flexibility around working hours, days and working from home will be an essential consideration for all parents commencing, and continuing, employment. To ensure any flexibility is also fit for the business, managers can assess whether particular job roles have opportunities for flexibility and in what format, such as whether reduced working hours are supported or if job shares, part-time work or shift work can be undertaken.

As every employee has a right to make one statutory flexible working request in each 12-month period once they reach 26 weeks’ continuous employment, organisations will need to decide, and confirm, whether requests for flexibility will be considered from new employees without the required length of service. If so, an alternative procedure to process these may need to be implemented, and communicated to managers.


Job adverts which include whether flexibility will be considered from day one will be more effective at targeting working parents by confirming flexible working arrangements are available in this role. Care will need to be taken, however, to ensure that advertisements do not discriminate against those with a particular protected characteristic. For example, an assumption that all unemployed parents are women, thereby targeting adverts at female job applicants, should be avoided as this will discriminate against male parents.

The recruitment process needs to remain objective, non-discriminatory and appropriate for all job applicants. For example, roles which are suitable for working parents should be advertised to all job applicants, and those who apply will need to be assessed on an equal basis taking into account objective factors such as experience, qualifications and skills — rather than whether they are a parent or not.

Organisational policies

Internal policies which provide additional support for an employee’s personal circumstances will encourage, and support, the recruitment of working parents. Organisations can review how they operate family-friendly leave, such as maternity, parental and time off for dependants, to assess how this can be made more beneficial for employees with childcare responsibilities. This may be through enhancing benefits, ie providing paid time off for dependants rather than unpaid leave as per the statutory scheme, or by introducing additional leave within their organisation, such as bereavement leave. Not only will this support the recruitment of new parents, it will provide a supportive and positive culture for current employees who go on to have a family.

Workplace support

To ensure the initial settling in process is successful for all new employees who join the organisation, an induction and training programme are key. These provide a formal programme to ensure the new employee has a forum to be provided with essential information, training and guidance on their role, and on the organisation itself. When a working parent is employed, organisations can assess whether further support is required at this stage. This may be through additional training to address any skills impacted by time off work or allocation of a buddy to provide a peer-to-peer support during their early days. It is important to sit down with the employee and discuss their induction requirements, rather than just assuming they will have been significantly impacted by any time away from work due to childcare commitments.