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A webinar held by Working Families yesterday highlighted best practice in flexible and family friendly working.
What makes a top employer? An event yesterday to promote Working Families Benchmark aimed to answer that question. The benchmark is described as the only assessment tool of its kind in that it measures all aspects of employers’ flexible working and work-life policies in practice.
The event, hosted by Working Families’ Chief Executive, Jane van Zyl, focused on the work of three of this year’s benchmarked employers. Van Zyl began with some statistics from Working Families research about issues ranging from flexible working to parental leave. For instance, its survey of employers found that, while there are signs of optimism in terms of the percentage of employers who offer more than two weeks paid paternity leave [up from 22% last year to 37% this year], there is still a lot to do to promote part-time career progression, with Working Families’ research showing term time working to be the most preferred form of flexible working for place-based workers. In its survey, only 7 per cent of senior managers worked part time, with 70% of these being women. A lack of part-time senior roles have long been seen as a barrier to women’s career progression.
Working Families wants to see employers monitoring flexible working as part of their diversity and inclusion work so they can understand better the impact of different working patterns on career progression. They also want more availability of part-time and job share roles, flexible working from day one and for all, proactive promotion of part-time and job share roles for men so that they are not only seen as options for mums, more equal support for all parents, greater transparency about flexible and family friendly working, a focus on line manager training for managing flexible teams and a focus on job analysis so managers can make all roles flexible.
The first of the employers to speak was David Blackburn, Chief People Officer at the Financial Services Compensation Scheme [FSCS – the team is pictured], who spoke about a range of policies, such as family leave – 26 weeks at full pay for any parent irrespective of how they became a parent in recognition that families come in many different forms. Blackburn said only one father had not taken all six months off. FSCS also allows employees up to 20 days of paid parental leave, extended from five before Covid, has had flexible working from day one since 2018, which made moving to remote working very smooth during the first lockdown, and has reduced its gender pay gap from 18% in favour of men three years ago to 1.3% in favour of women.
Blackburn also spoke about the organisation’s Your Day Your Way policy which resulted from asking employees how they wanted to work after Covid. It recognises that the office still plays an important role in working life in terms of collaboration, connection, creativity, community and celebration. Following a staff survey, it introduced a 40% rule for working from the office which means that people do 40% of their hours a month in the office, but can choose when in the month they do this, for instance, a whole week in the office once a month or 40% of the week in the office.
In addition, FSCS has provided a loose framework of hours that people can work – extending from 7am to 7pm. They can therefore choose if they want to start early or work later on any given day. And every role can be worked flexibly, meaning there is no longer a need for a flexible working policy – the organisation just has a toolkit to help people get the best from flexible working. Satisfaction is up as a result [at 91%] as is productivity. Blackburn says it is a win win and helps the organisation attract the best employees in a sector where competitors can offer high salaries.
Lowri Williams, Head of Human Resources and Inclusion at the Welsh Parliament, said Covid had allowed the employer to progress further towards its goal of creating the right culture and infrastructure for all employees. Flexible working is offered as a default option and a day one right and there are no set hours, only flexible checkpoints. Eighty seven per cent of staff work flexi hours. The Parliament can also flex in line with changing circumstances, such as the cost of living crisis and the pandemic. Senior managers role model the inclusive culture so that people don’t feel they need permission to work flexibly.
The Parliament constantly asks its employees what they want in terms of family friendly and flexible policies and has a range of policies from enhanced family leave to career breaks and enhanced bereavement leave. When it comes to financial support, it has just introduced a hardship fund and allows people a Christmas advance on their salary. It runs sessions on child and adolescent health and Alzheimer’s, has menopause policies and support and an intranet page on working from home efficiently.
All its policies are backed up by data and customers as well as employees are asked for feedback. All staff questioned say they feel well cared for.
The last speakers were Caroline Dungar, Director of Colleague Experience at Yorkshire Building Society, and her colleague Fiona Sykes, Total Reward Lead – Colleague Experience. Fiona said the society’s carers policy includes both formal and informal carers. It offers day one flexible working and it has a range of employee network groups, including a parent and carers one. This has recently created a sub-group for parents of neurodiverse children where support and advice is shared.
The Society also offers secondments to its staff so that they can build their skills and explore different progression pathways. The building society has a focus on wellbeing and mindfulness and gave a cost of living payment to staff in September as well as budgeting tools and information about discount schemes. When it come to flexible working it has worked on data on customer footfall in order to flex not just for employee need but also customer requirements, changing its opening hours to accommodate more support at the beginning and end of the day. “We are working together to balance individual needs and customer demand,” said Fiona.