A model for family friendly working

Working Mums - Top Employer Awards 2016 at the Soho Hotel

Rebecca Marandola was nine months pregnant when she applied for a role with Carillion seven years ago. Not only was she offered the full-time role and told the multinational facilities management and construction services company would wait for her to come back from maternity leave, but when she did start she asked if she could reduce her hours and the company found her a job share.

Since then she has been promoted and is now Portfolio Manager – Talent at Carillion. As a result of the company’s willingness to be flexible with her, Rebecca feels very committed to her work at Carillion and to doing her utmost to ensure the company is at the forefront of family friendly working. Her passion is clear when she talks about her role in co-founding the company’s Working Mums’ network.

The network was formed at Carillion in 2011 by women passionate about setting up a support group for working mothers.

It was the first of Carillion’s support networks and has since been followed by Connect, an LGBT support group, a carers’ network, a BAME group and the Working Dads’ Network. A disability network is also being introduced. In the future Rebecca sees the Working Mums’ and Dads’ groups combining to become a working families’ network.

Network for mums

The Working Mums’ network is a key part of Carillion’s family support package, which recently won it the Workingmums.co.uk Top Employer Award for Family Support. This package includes a sabbatical policy which allows employees to apply to have up to one year off work,  family friendly benefits such as childcare vouchers, discounts and offers for many family attractions and days out as well as a carers initiative. The company is also a member of the Employers for Carers network.

The Working Mums’ Network also plays a vital role in promoting good management through highlighting the positive impact good line managers can have in retaining, motivating and getting the best out of their employees. This is a key area in terms of supporting working mums, with many of those who write into Workingmums.co.uk saying they have been forced out or have seen their working lives made more stressful due to poor management.

In 2012 the network launched its Star Manager award after the network looked at how it could best promote what it did and get buy-in across the company.

“We were interested in how we could engage with  mums and get line managers on board too,” says Rebecca. “We figured that everyone likes praise and recognition.” Carillion already had awards that recognise staff who reflect the company’s values. “We thought why not do something like that for managers who support working mums. The aim was also to spread best practice across the organisation and highlight the positive things our line managers do,” adds Rebecca.

The Star Manager initiative is publicised through the network’s newsletters where network members are encouraged to keep nominating managers who have gone beyond the call of duty to support them. In the past, our Star Managers were presented with a ‘star manager’ mug. “Putting it on a mug starts conversations which is vital to spreading good practice,” says Rebecca. The network is planning to give the awards a higher profile across the company and hopefully make it part of the overall Star Awards which happen across the business currently.

Line managers’ guide

The Working Mums’ Network is looking to hold a range of events to support mums, such as online sessions for pregnant women and those on maternity leave or returning to work. It is just about to publish a line managers’ guide to maternity and this will be sent to all managers of women who attend the network’s Webex sessions. It covers everything from risk assessments to conversations about return to work.

The network also does surveys of its members and feeds back suggestions to HR on issues such as retention and maternity provisions. In 2012 it successfully made the business case for enhancing maternity pay, an innovative step in the construction industry at the time. The network also provides maternity buddies which support women through maternity leave and return to work.

To respond to everyday queries, the Working Mums’ Network has its own email mailbox and uses an internal social media platform, Yammer where mums can post questions about anything relating to being a working mum or to share any information they feel would be useful to others.

The network will be represented on Carillion’s new diversity council which will provide a forum for the different network groups to have conversations on issues where there might be crossover.

The Working Mums’ Network has been giving a lot of advice and support to the dads’ group, suggesting, for instance, that the group conducts a survey of members. This showed that flexible working was the biggest priority for dads and that 40% of dads wanted more information on shared parental leave. The group has published a newsletter which includes an interview with a line manager who is working flexibly. “It is important to highlight senior managers who are working flexibly so people know that it is not just about women,” says Rebecca.

Flexible working

Flexible working is an important element of Carillion’s family friendly culture. The group’s HR team promotes flexible working and has produced a video showing flexible working is open to all  and will be supported unless there is a business critical reason why it should not be. On job adverts, the company advertises that it is willing to discuss flexible working.

Flexible working and family support also play an important role in supporting women who might want to climb the career ladder at Carillion. The company provides different development programmes for women from entry level up to its women in leadership programme. Many women in senior roles have children and several act as role models to other women keen to progress. “We want women to be able to have a family life and a successful career and will do our best to support that,” says Rebecca. “There is no room for complacency. It is a work in progress.”

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