’s Top Employer Awards: 10 years on

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the’s Top Employer Awards. It’s a good point at which to look back and look forward.

Gillian Nissim, Top Employer Awards

Working Mums - Top Employer Awards 2018 at the Soho Hotel

This week we’ve been looking at the shortlist of this year’s Top Employer Awards. It’s a particularly special event this year as it is the awards’ 10th anniversary of celebrating best practice in flexible and family friendly working. That makes it a good time to look back at changes over the last 10 years.

At the first ceremony there were only four awards and there was a big focus from the larger corporates on reducing office imprint in the wake of the financial crisis. Professional services company Accenture took the overall top employer award. The other three awards were employee engagement, innovation in flexible working and SME. The following year there were eight awards, including an award for childcare, talent attraction and one for working mums’ champion. The SME award was split into employers with 25 and under employees and those with 26-250 employees.

Overall winners over the years have included John Lewis Partnership, Unilever, engineering firm Atkins, children’s advocates Cafcass and tech firm FDM Group. Over the years new awards have been added, including a Best for Dads award and a Best for Returners award, in response to changing developments.
More and more dads want to work flexibly and share parental leave while the Best for Returners award reflects the progress made in returner programmes for those who have taken career breaks. Other new awards include one for career progression to reflect concerns about women being stuck in lower ranked jobs, something that has played a big role in the gender pay gap.

In the innovation in flexible working category, there has been recognition of the use of technology to promote greater remote working. Where in the past the financial services and tech sectors dominated we have seen innovation in sectors which face particular challenges, such as shipbuilding or engineering.

The extension of flexible working into sectors which were previously fairly inflexible or which are heavily male-dominated has been one of the most interesting developments of the last 10 years.
There has been recognition for outstanding work on job shares [Civil Service Human Resources], on women in tech [FDM Group], on four-day weeks [Radioactive PR], on neurodiversity [Roche], on carers [Centrica] and on agile hiring [Lloyds]. Particular winning policies and practice have gone on to have a big impact, for instance, McDonald’s policy of giving those on zero hours contracts a choice to take guaranteed hours and LSE’s of giving academics on parental leave a period of exemption from teaching duties on return so they can catch up on their research.
Several employers have won more than once, including LSE, IT firm Hireserve and healthcare communications agency Cuttsy and Cuttsy and some have gone on to sponsor awards, such as AT Kearney and Roche UK this year.
The Working Mums Champion has seen some inspiring women recognised for their impact both within their organisations and beyond. They include Julianne Miles from Women Returners, Dawn Moore, Director of Human Resources at construction firm Morgan Sindall Construction and Adeline Ginn of Women in Rail.
Our judges have mostly remained the same, which provides a lot of continuity and our discussions are rich ones, fed not just by the judges’ own expertise, but by 10 years of in-depth discussions. Our keynote speakers have been very varied too, including Jo Swinson, leader of the Liberal Democrats, Gavin Shuker from the Women & Equalities Committee as well as agile working expert Alison Maitland.
So what happens next? There is a greater interest in the more challenging areas for flexible working – frontline location-specific jobs and larger SMEs; in broader diversity issues, including neurodiversity; in career progression for flexible workers; in wider family issues and a lifecycle approach to working, taking in younger people’s demands for greater flexibility as well as older people’s need for a gradual reduction of hours in the lead-up to and beyond retirement. It will be interesting to see what the next 10 years holds.

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