Supporting families Top Employer Award for Family Support is not just about childcare support. It embraces all kinds of caring responsibilities, including the growing number of parents who find themselves looking after their own elderly relatives.

It’s something this year’s winner Barclays has put into practice across the world. In China, for instance, there is an increasing focus on the implications for employees of the one child policy and a burgeoning elderly population so carers’ issues are rising up the agenda. In India, where Barclays has teams in various locations including Pune, the cultural norm is for families to look after the extended family; therefore, while many employees have parents and grandparents that they look after, they may not define themselves as carers in the same way as other global colleagues. Meanwhile, in the UK, changing demographics mean more and more workers have responsibility for caring for elderly parents – many at the same time as they are bringing up young families – and men are increasingly involved in caring roles.

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Mark McLane, Head of Global Diversity and Inclusion, says the Top Employer Award is evidence of the progress the company and its diversity networks are making, and helps bring visibility to what it is doing. “It’s great to be recognised for what we have accomplished,” he says, “but we are also keen to learn from others.”

He said one example of the progress the company has made is that its return rates for women on maternity leave have risen to 90% in the last few years. Indeed, he says, women are more likely to stay longer in the company than men. “It’s an urban legend that attrition rates are higher for women. In fact in Barclays, women are 7% more likely to stay than men,” he says.

Some 52% of Barclays staff are women, a figure that has grown steadily over the last three years.

Part of the reason for that is likely to be the multiple options the company offers to parents and caregivers. For instance, if both parents work at the company they can swap parental leave between them, a policy that is in advance of forthcoming legislation on shared parenting.

Then there is flexible working which Barclays offers in many different guises, from remote working, to compressed hours and term time only which can be used by a wide array of staff (depending on the business case), including those who have adopted children, had children via surrogacy and LGBT parents.

“Our flexible work policy is about meeting the needs of the family regardless of how that family is defined,” says McLane. “We are also interested in meeting the needs of our constituents in all their different life stages.”

Role models

McLane says role models, including senior role models, are vital for spreading the company’s message about family support. “It shows that the organisation is there to support them,” he says. Chief Executive Antony Jenkins, for instance, has talked about his family in his weekly blogs. “It shows our leaders are also family people and plants the expectation that we understand the need for work life integration,” says McLane.

He adds that role models are also important for showing how senior managers have dealt with those moments in their careers when they have had to make difficult choices balancing home and career priorities.

Barclays senior executives are also sponsors of its Working Family and Carers networks which provide forums for parents and carers to exchange views and experiences. “This allows senior leaders to hear from employees directly so they can understand what is in the margins of our policies, and that drives engagement,” says McLane.

The networks host events which cover all life phases and are very popular. A recent session on stress and work life balance, led by My Family Care, drew around 300 people and interestingly, all the questions were from men. “There’s definitely been a change with dads being more involved in family life,” says Jo Creasy, Interim Head of BIS Service Management and Support and chair of the Working Family network. “It’s much more of the norm to see dads talking about flexible working, career choices and family commitments. It’s much more of a partnership thing.”

The networks are backed up by internal social media forums where employees can share advice.

Various business areas within Barclays also provide additional support such as coaching for new dads, maternity and adoption coaching, and 10 paid transition days leave in the first two years of new parents returning from maternity or paternity leave. These transition days, offered for employees of Barclays Wealth, can be used for anything from settling children into nursery to inoculations. More widely, line managers are also offered coaching in how to help new parents transition back to work. “It helps them to understand what they can do to keep people engaged while they are on parental leave,” says McLane. This offsets concerns over issues such as the legal ramifications of ringing staff who are on leave.

Once parents have returned to work, they are eligible for childcare vouchers and up to six free emergency care sessions a year via My Family Care. Barclays’ Emergency Assistance Programme and other support programmes signpost them to a range of other support, including legal help and financial assistance. There is also an annual Bring Your Child to Work Day which again spreads the message about work life integration.

McLane believes flexible working will soon be the norm – indeed Barclays showcases senior managers and others working flexibly, including in job shares.

“The younger generation are used to working that way via email, conference calls and working on their iPads from any location,” says McLane.

“They are a generation which is constantly online,” agrees Creasy.

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