Supporting the family

Danone talks about its award-winning policies on family support.

Danone’s external image is all about health and well-being and it is keen that its internal image matches up.

For that reason it has made great strides in promoting a range of policies that encourage well being, including family support. It was this range of support which impressed the Top Employer Award judges who gave it their 2013 Award for Family Support.

Danone’s family support encompasses an adoption policy, flexible working for all, family days, retirement policy, grandparent leave, surrogacy leave and stress and well being. Family days were introduced a few years ago to recognise significant life events such as christenings, important family birthdays and the like. “It’s saying that we understand these things are really important and we support you taking time out without you feeling you have to take it as holiday,” says Emma Sykes, Sourcing and Selection Manager at Danone Baby Nutrition. She adds that well being and health are core to the business and that their role has only become larger and the company’s commitment greater in recent years. “We have to be authentic internally to the message we are giving externally about health from the cradle to the grave,” she adds. “Our central message is health through food and drink. We have to replicate that internally through the quality of our benefits. It’s what makes us stand out from our competitors and win talented candidates who are attracted by our values." 

Danone teamed up with My Family Care a couple of years ago who provide a range of support to working families, including emergency childcare, a childcare search and support service and counselling on issues including financial problems. 

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The company also operates a flexible reward scheme on its intranet site. It allows employees to buy and sell benefits such as extra holiday and choose what they need tailored to their own circumstances. It includes childcare vouchers and additional healthcare. There’s a portfolio of benefits to choose from and employees can change their selection at a couple of points in the year, unless there is an emergency. Employees log in through the company’s Work + Family Space and are sent regular monthly emails with advice and tips, for instance, on summer holiday arrangements. The bulletins are tailored to the employee’s circumstances, such as the age of their children. Advice is available via phone or email at any time on family issues.

Flexible working is a key part of family support. The company's policy of flexible working includes reviewing whether new roles can be done flexibly and being ready for changes in legislation, like shared parenting, and social changes such as increased caring roles for older relatives.

Sykes says Danone hopes to have all the tools and systems it needs in place to transition to fully agile working. “That level of flexibility and agility can only help,” she says. “It will enable a better work life fit and more remote working will have health benefits such as cutting commuting times. More and more staff will be grappling with caring responsibilities for elderly relatives in the future. It’s important that we pre-empt that and have the mechanisms in place to support them.”

*A full version of this overview of Danone's policies on family support, for which it won a Top Employer Award, will be published in the Best Practice Report in the Spring.

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