Pushing the boundaries

Many parents, particularly of very young and illness-prone children, worry about what to do when their children are sick. Legally, parents can take up to 13 weeks unpaid parental leave before their child is five. Some employers, however, go further than the legislation. Xerox is one of them. Workingmums.co.uk spoke to them to find out more.

Many parents, particularly of very young and illness-prone children, worry about what to do when their children are sick. Legally, parents can take up to 13 weeks unpaid parental leave before their child is five. Some employers, however, go further than the legislation.

Xerox is one of them. It offers up to five days a year of emergency childcare leave for parents who are dealing with children who are sick or have suffered an accident under its discretionary leave policy which has been in place for a number of years. “This is to provide sufficient time for the employee to sort out childcare or put alternative arrangements in place,” says Dianne Timmins, Talent Management & HR Programmes Manager at Xerox.

If the sickness is more serious there are additional policies available, she says. For instance, there is short-term absence which provides up to nine months of unpaid leave which was introduced 18 months ago in addition to career breaks for those employees who need to take a longer period of time off. “We are continually looking at policies in order to improve our employee experience,” continues Timmins.

This includes their policies for fathers. Timmins says they have had inquiries from dads (and partners) about additional paternity leave and sharing their partner’s maternity leave. In addition, Xerox offers two weeks’ paternity leave on full pay and is keen to promote its childcare vouchers system to dads as well as mums. Anyone taking paternity leave receives a letter giving details of the childcare voucher scheme.

Talent recruitment

Xerox is building relationships with recruitment agencies which target women as part of their attempts to widen the diversity of their talent pool. They also offer part-time and flexible roles and are happy to accommodate flexibility for employees where there is a good business case to do so, for instance, to get and retain the right talent. Although most of their roles are full time, they offer a lot of flexible options, including early starts and elements of homeworking. Timmins herself works part-time, working three days in the office and making up the remainder of her 28.5 hour week at home.

“More of our managers are now working flexibly,” she says, “and there are some good success stories around including a number of job shares. When people can see it working it raises managers’ confidence about flexible working and has a positive knock-on effect with other managers.”

A few years ago, Xerox changed its flexible working policy to allow all employees to request to work flexibly – not just women with children as it recognised that there are many other reasons that people need this flexibility, especially those with caring responsibilities.

Currently, 12 per cent of Xerox employees are on a contract which specifies a flexible working pattern, and five per cent of employees work part time, of which 90 per cent are women.

Timmins says flexible working has in the past, both at Xerox and in other organisations, been driven largely by HR rather than being seen as a business-wide issue, but this is now starting to change.





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