Focus on: Workingmums.co.uk Top Employers

What makes a top employer?

For working parents – and the majority of people working in the UK are going to be working parents at some point in their career – the answer is overwhelmingly flexible working. Flexible working comes top of almost every survey of employee benefits. Top employers recognise that it is not only employees who benefit.

Research shows flexible working reduces sickness leave, reduces staff turnover, boosts morale, raises retention levels, reduces recruitment costs, increases productivity and can cut overheads. So why aren't all employers keen to offer it? One of the problems still appears to be a lack of understanding of all the potential benefits it can bring. Too often employers see it only as an employee benefit and therefore as a bit of a burden to them. Many tend to implement it on an individual basis rather than creating truly flexible organisations. This is where Workingmums.co.uk comes in.

Its Top Employers Platform aims to spread good practice so that employers can see for themselves how the leading companies are taking things forward and potential employees can apply from jobs from them. To become a Top Employer, companies have to show that there are committed to openly supporting flexible working and diversity across their organisation. This includes being able to show that they do not just implement flexible working but ensure that flexible workers do not get sidelined in their career and have opportunities to move forwards whatever their working pattern. They also need to be able to demonstrate that their policies are innovative and show that they are monitoring how they benefit the company.

It is not just about having good written policies but being able to demonstrate through case studies, testimonials and information such as improved retention rates, reduced absenteeism and improved productivity that they are both an employer of choice for working families and are reaping the business benefits of that. The policies of those included on the platform range from providing support networks for parents or women, including mentoring programmes to the range of flexible work they provide as well as support with childcare.

Gillian Nissim, founder of Workingmums.co.uk, says: "When I set up Workingmums.co.uk five years ago it was to put businesses with family friendly policies in direct contact with professional women with years of experience who needed to work flexibly. The idea was that this would prove mutually beneficial and the response we have had over the last five years has more than demonstrated that this is the case. Our Top Employers platform gives the most innovative businesses a place where they can promote what they are doing and share good practice for the benefit of everyone.”

The companies featured on the Top Employers platform recognise the long-term importance of retaining and attracting skilled professionals. Companies like Starbucks, for instance, offer a range of flexible working in their 24/7 business. Through their Partner Life service they also offer parenting support, such as sessions on childcare, children's well-being and managing work life balance, via a dedicated counsellor who is available online or on the phone round the clock. Partners – employees – get discounts and share options and have the opportunity to influence company policy through a scheme called Partner Blend, which is where a group of elected representatives gather feedback from their peers, which they then discuss face to face with the leadership team. For working mums there is also a return to work bonus payment.

Another retailer on the Workingmums Top Employers platform is H&M. Despite the straitened economic times, it is looking at offering part-time manager posts in some stores. This is unusual in retail and is evidence of its commitment to working mums. Some 80% of its workforce are women, including a large number of its area managers. Darrin Taylor-Smith, H&M’s UK Recruitment Manager, says: “Working mums often have the experience they need to hit the ground running straight away – it’s fantastic.” For more details about workingmums.co.uk's Top Employer platform, click here. For information on Workingmums Top Employer Awards 2012 which have just opened for nominations, click here.

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