Covid-19 case study: Zurich Insurance

Zurich Insurance has offered its employees a range of benefits during lockdown, with many aimed at parents, who already benefit from a very flexible culture and equal parental leave policies.



Zurich Insurance has just announced that it is offering all its 4,500 global employees the opportunity to receive a free antibody test.

The move comes on top of a range of other Covid-related benefits, with several of them targeted at parents.

They include the ability to trade annual leave up or down. This policy has been in place for some time, but usually there is just one window a year to trade holiday. However, in the early days of lockdown managers realised that lots of people who had booked extra holiday might not need it this year while others with caring responsibilities might need more. The company opened a second window for employees to buy and sell holiday and saw a huge take-up. They intend to do it again in the next few months.

“From the start we wanted to make things as easy for people who had to balance home and work responsibilities as possible and to give people the time they need to recharge,” said Steve Collinson, Head of HR for Zurich in the UK.

To do so they made other small changes such as dropping childcare voucher contributions to one pound because people were not using them, dropping pension contributions and cancelling gym subscriptions.

Zurich also enabled employees to flex their hours around childcare responsibilities. As the insurance company already has a strong flexible working culture this was fairly straightforward. Zurich already advertises every job as available either part time, as a job share, or flexible in other ways. That move at the beginning of last year has led to a significant increase in the number of women applying and being appointed, even if they don’t actually want to do a job share. “They are not necessarily applying because they need flexibility now, but because making this bold statement about job shares shows the culture of the organisation,” says Steve.

Before lockdown 75% of staff used some form of flexible working.  Since lockdown the vast majority of staff work from home, with a third saying they have been just as productive, a third saying they are less productive and a third feeling they are more productive. “Flexible working is what has got us through this crisis,” said Steve. No-one has been furloughed or forced to reduce their hours. HR managers have told line managers to discuss with their teams what works best for both them and the business. “People have found their own way through this together,” says Steve.  “We couldn’t have done it without flexible working.”

Line managers have been supported with the switch to remote working and encouraged to think differently about how they manage people who are not physically present. There has, for instance, been a big discussion about how to make performance management evaluations fair, including for parents who might have faced particular work/life challenges. Managers have been invited to ‘workplace live’ events to find their own answers to such issues.

Towards a hybrid remote/office model

As lockdown has eased, Zurich has asked its employees how they want to work in the future. Eighty per cent say they want to retain some form of remote working and very few have wanted to come back to the office, although they can if they want to. Steve notes the need to appreciate different employees’ circumstances. While some employees are worried about being away from colleagues for a long time, others are worried about commuting to work. Most want to do some days from home in the future – the number of days varies according to the employee.

Steve says the challenge for HR is to get their heads around this hybrid model. He thinks it will work best if it is done informally within teams with trust at the core and some basic principles in place, such as never missing a customer call. That empowers teams to make it work. For Steve it is about opening up people’s mindsets to different possibilities. In the next few weeks Zurich will roll out the idea of different personas – whether that is a home-based, field-based, office-based or flexible personae – that people can move between.

Zurich has also recently equalised parental leave for men and women. Steve says people told him before the policy was implemented at the end of last year that most men wouldn’t take the full 16 weeks. In fact, the vast majority of dads have. “There does not seem to be a perception that it will have a negative impact on their career,” says Steve.

“We want to be the most attractive place to work for the widest group of people,” he adds, “and that is backed up by our policies.” Not only has Zurich published its gender pay gap, but also its ethnicity pay gap and it will soon publish its disability and LGBT pay gap. “We want to be really open about our culture,” says Steve.

Post a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Latest from Flexible Working Practices

Read more on Flexible Working Practices

Your Franchise Selection

Click the button below to register your interest with all the franchises in your selection

Request FREE Information Now

Your Franchise Selection

This franchise opportunity has been added to your franchise selection



Click the button below to register your interest with all the franchises in your selection

Request FREE Information Now

You may be interested in these similar franchises