UK: Working family award winners include an SME and a University

Awards and best-practices can be valuable sources of inspiration for Diversity managers who want to create peer pressure in their own organisation. The organisation ‘Working Parents UK’ has just unveiled the winners of their fifth Working Families awards, recognising UK organisations that have developed successful policies and practices to support work-life balance and career development for working parents, carers and flexible workers. All in all eight awards, comprising for instance the topics eldercare, fatherhood or innovation have recently been handed over to the winning organisations: British Gas, Plantronics, Citi, Barclays and the London School of Economics are among the winners, Ford, American Express and Allianz Insurance were commended as runner-ups. All entrants first completed a benchmark survey on their policies and then opted to enter one or more of the awards.

Plantronics, a medium-sized communication technology company with 3,500 employees worldwide won the Innovation Award and the Best for Engagement Award. The company offers ultimate flexibility by putting outputs first. Employees are given complete freedom to decide where, when and how they work to find the best work-life fit for themselves and their families. Plantronics launched a Smarter Working project which looked at working practices and employee engagement. Now they offer a subsidised gym and leave it up to the employees to structure their working day with pauses and time-outs. The centre of all initiatives is trust, paid to the employees by the management. As a reward for the initiatives Plantronics remarked a reduction in staff turnover from 15 to 3%, the same reduction was achieved for absenteeism. Meanwhile, employee engagement and satisfaction increased by more than 20%, reaching an overall level not accomplished by direct competitors.

The London School of Economics has created an outstanding profile in childcare and gained the Best for motherhood award. All expectant or pre-adoptive mothers are offered a mentor if they want to. In addition to providing employees with guidance on their rights and options around flexible working, all mothers are encouraged to attend LSE’s Balancing Work and Being a Mum course. Places are also offered to the partners of the mothers-to-be, irrespective of whether they work for LSE or not. Expectant fathers are offered paid time off to accompany their partner to antenatal appointments and are encouraged to use the paid paternity leave. To mainstream the practices, management is coached on the advantages of flexible working and provided with information how to manage flexible workers.

British Gas, awarded with the E.ON Best for Carers and Eldercare Award, developed a number of tools to improve the support for all caring employees. The company has a solid suite of policies which includes practical arrangements aimed at carers, along with support for line managers and networking for employees. More than 2.5% of all employees are members in the carers’ network and are supported with an Employee Assistance Programme and special guidance. British Gas takes an active role in external events like Carers Rights Days or the National Carers Weeks and also organises a British Gas Carers Day which is specifically designed to reach out to the ‘hidden carers’ in the workforce. The broad approach, in combination with a close connection to the management, guarantees a sustained engagement for an effective work environment.