An award-winning family friendly culture

Morgan Sindall Construction & Infrastructure talks about its continuous evolution towards one of the most family friendly construction firms.

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Morgan Sindall Construction & Infrastructure offers a comprehensive set of family friendly policies which include various firsts for the construction industry.

It was the first construction firm to offer enhanced foster care support, the first to provide a buddy system for those returning from all types of parental leave and the first to run virtual career fairs to ensure it reaches out beyond the industry’s traditional talent pool.

It is for this reason that it was recently selected for the’s Top Employer Award for Family Support.

Its policies are all central to the business, with a People’s Board of senior managers having a strategic overview of them. The Board has been in place for nearly three years.

HR Director Dawn Moore put it in place to encourage the business to take dedicated time out every quarter to look strategically at issues such as career progression for underrepresented groups and how to create an inclusive culture and how to measure success.

“It allows time for medium and longer term planning for core agenda issues such as our succession pipeline and diversity,” says Moore.

For example, Morgan Sindall Construction & Infrastructure is looking to develop its work on returners and has been reviewing internal promotions this year to see how under-represented groups are doing and what more needs to be done to level the playing field. One area it is considering is formal development programmes.

The meetings last half a day, a significant time out of its managing directors’ diaries. Moore says the fact that directors have continued to devote this time over the years shows their commitment to people development, family friendly working and diversity issues.

Culture drives diversity

Unlike some other employers, Morgan Sindall Construction & Infrastructure does not set specific targets for getting more women into higher levels of the business. That is because the firm believes culture drives diversity. “The numbers will increase if the culture is right and people feel supported and included,” says Moore. “Targets can sometimes unconsciously drive wrong behaviours. We flip it and focus very much on the culture.”

That doesn’t mean that they don’t measure progress, however, and the People’s Board scrutinises the metrics.

Morgan Sindall Construction & Infrastructure also has an extensive array of family leave policies. For instance, it recently extended the family support it provides to foster carers and now offers paid foster care leave. This has been recognised as industry leading.

The firm’s rounded approach to parental leave covers maternity, paternity, Shared Parental Leave [SPL] and adoption leave as well as foster leave.

Its enhanced maternity and Shared Parental Leave policy offers 13 weeks at full pay, 13 weeks at half pay and then statutory rate for the remaining week and there are two weeks on full pay for paternity leave.

Moore says the number of people taking SPL is steadily growing. To help more parents to take it, Morgan Sindall Construction & Infrastructure has simplified information about the leave so that it fits on one page.

The company also provides paid ante-natal leave for dads. Moreover, employees coming back from extended leave, such as maternity leave or SPL, are matched up with buddies. These are volunteers who have personal experience of returning from extended periods of leave.

Moore is one of the firm’s 18 buddies and numbers are steadily growing. There are some guidelines for buddies, but mostly the arrangement is informal. Many buddies are still in touch after the first months back. “It can bring together people from different parts of the business who have gone through similar challenges,” says Moore.

The aim of these family friendly policies is to recruit and retain a wide range of talent. The organisation has had a 100% parental leave return and retention rate over the last two years. Moreover, over 65 per cent of these employees with families have returned to more flexible working arrangements which has aided retention.

Flexible working

Flexible working is very much part of the Morgan Sindall Construction & Infrastructure culture and the company culture is about opening up conversations about work patterns so that they are mutually beneficial to employer and employee. Some 62% of employees have an informal flexible working pattern and all roles are being reviewed with a flexible working lens.

In addition Morgan Sindall Construction & Infrastructure provides a range of other support, including paid family emergency leave, paid carer’s leave, a returner programme, family events, phased retirement, relocation support, a support helpline through its employee assistance programme and childcare support through vouchers and a list of local nurseries.

Next year it will launch a full package of back-up care with My Family Care, including elder care. Employees can also buy an additional five days of holiday.

Also on offer are sabbaticals, but only where they are appropriate and work for both employee and employer.

Moore gives the example of a woman who took a three-month sabbatical to spend some time travelling with her husband after he retired. “She came up with a good plan which meant there was no detriment to the business. It was a two-way partnership,” says Moore.

In addition to changing its own culture, Morgan Sindall Construction & Infrastructure is also interested in its wider impact on the industry.

It is involved in a number of social initiatives to raise the awareness of careers in construction to under-represented groups – this includes the recently launched ‘All Together Cumbria’, a joint social enterprise to enhance the opportunities for those living with their families in the Cumbrian region.

Moreover, its family support extends to the families of the communities it works with. Recently, for instance, as part of its Glenwood SEN School project the team took time to engage with families to ensure the building work was in keeping with their needs.

Business strategy

Moore emphasises that the company’s family friendly policies and culture are all tied into the company‘s business strategy and its aim to attract a more diverse range of talent than it would get through traditional job adverts.

They are backed up by training for line managers in inclusive recruitment and unconscious bias and by a series of virtual career fairs which began in March 2017. They are run around twice a year and are recorded so people can take part at whatever time of day suits them best.

There are also live chats as part of the fairs and these continue up until 7pm on the day of the fair so potential candidates can interact with people from Morgan Sindall Construction & Infrastructure and don’t have to take time out of their working day.  Around 670 people have taken part so far.

“It opens up the company to other talent and is a great platform for Morgan Sindall, Construction & Infrastructure” says Moore, stressing that such fairs don’t necessarily work for all organisations because the culture needs to be right first.

The company communicates in various ways both internally and externally, including externally via LinkedIn and organisations like The aim is to create a buzz and show that it is not afraid to do things differently.

“We’re part of a continuous evolution,” says Moore.

“We are keen to identity what works well and to keep an eye out for what makes us different and the best place to work, to listen to our employees and to other people about what works and how we can get it right for our organisation.

We don’t just want to copy other ideas as a one-size-fit-all approach doesn’t work. It’s about culture change and a company’s culture, especially ours, is unique.”

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