What makes a top employer?

If you are looking for a flexible new job, it is vital to research the work life policies of the organisations you are approaching. But how do you know what good looks like?

Workingmums.co.uk aims to spread good practice so that organisations can learn from the innovations of others and so that women looking for flexible working know what is possible.

One way we do this is through our Top Employers platform, where larger employers with progressive policies on work life balance can promote what they do. In recent months the Top Employers platform has been broadening to embrace a wider range of work sectors.

In the last couple of months the organisations which have joined have included Microsoft, John Lewis, bed specialists Dreams, professional services organisation Ernst & Young, clothing retailer Hobbs and investment specialists M&G.

IT firms like Microsoft specialise in the kind of technology which makes flexible working possible so you would expect them to have a full array of flexible work options, including homeworking. However, the firm also many other perks to help employees manage their work and family life more effectively. For instance, it offers a dry cleaning service, on-site cash machines, banking facilities and financial advisers at their UK HQ so staff can save time on everyday tasks. Other services offered by the company include a photo processing shop, somewhere to rent DVDs, a car washing service and a service whereby Waitrose delivers groceries to your office.

Microsoft also puts a lot of emphasis on the health and wellbeing of its employees and has ‘Wellbeing Centres’ at its offices in London and Reading where people can get help and information on a whole range of medical and health issues including vaccinations and consultations with doctors, nurses, and occupational therapists. The centres also offer alternative therapies such as acupuncture, hydro-therapy, reflexology, and Indian head massage. They also recommend life coaches for anyone who wants one.

Ernst & Young is one of the leaders in innovative policies on work life balance and flexible working. It has recently revised its maternity package and offers up to 39 weeks paid maternity leave, paid paternity leave and support for parents through both its parent network and counselling managers.

Hobbs offers a range of full- and part-time posts, including managers. Dreams lays great emphasis on employee engagement and provides full training for all employees, whether they are full or part time.

M&G says it is clear about the business benefits of ensuring fairness at work. This includes providing avenues for staff to feed into policy through its consultation committee. It offers a range of flexible working options from part-time and flexible hours to homeworking. It trains managers in the benefits of having a diverse workforce and in supporting the emergence of a diverse group of future managers and investors.

John Lewis is well-known for its cooperative structure. For instance, it does not have employees, but Partners. These receive an equal proportion of the company’s profits as a percentage of their salary every year.

It has partner holiday centres offering subsidised stays in a selection of hotels, lodges and caravans. It also subsidises special events that bring Partners together. These include Family Fun Days, Football Tournaments, Theme Park Take-Over days and Music Festivals. There are also a host of other specially negotiated discounts for Partners and their families, including on leisure learning.

There are many other bonuses that set the company apart from its competitors and were part of the reason the company was awarded the Workingmums.co.uk Top Employer Award for employee engagement in 2010.

Workingmums.co.uk’s Top Employer Awards aim to highlight good practice in family friendly working. This year it includes four new categories – Talent Attraction, Childcare, Shared Parenting and Working Mums Champion – reflecting developments in work life balance policy.  The awards will be presented in October at a ceremony in London.

Other employers on the Top Employer platform are Accenture, Best Buy Europe, Coca Cola Enterprises, Deloitte, Deutsche Bank, H & M, HSBC, KFC, KPMG, Nationwide, Orange, Prudential, Santander, Starbucks, RBS and UBS.

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