Working Families names companies providing best flexibility for parents and carers

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At a time when understanding and flexibility has never been more important, UK charity Working Families has announced the winners of its 2020 Best Practice Awards

Now in its eleventh year, the awards celebrate employers that go the extra mile to provide a positive work-life balance for their employees.

A dual award winner this year, the Royal Air Force (RAF) was named Best for Mothers and joint Best Innovation alongside Pinsent Masons.

Maternity policy at the RAF includes 26 weeks leave on full pay, access to dedicated fitness sessions and eligibility for flexible working. As a result, the force has managed to achieve a retention rate of 82% for mothers a year after they return to work.

In terms of innovation, the RAF was celebrated for integrating HR metrics and numerous information sources into one central data repository.

Speaking to HR magazine captain Finlay McLean, head of personnel strategy at the RAF, said that the department is always amazed to see the range of personal circumstances people balance while continuing to serve.

He added: “We expected to see individuals welcome the opportunities for flexibility but were surprised that our people openly admitted that these opportunities had in fact prevented them from leaving the Service.

"Many people, the public as well as some Royal Air Force personnel, assume that flexible working isn’t compatible with military life. However, when taking advantage of flexible working, Royal Air Force personnel have found their colleagues to be very welcoming and supportive [...] the culture is far more accepting of flexible working and ‘life friendly’ policies in general, than perhaps previously assumed.”

In the Best for Flexible Working category law firm Hill Dickinson was awarded for a policy that has enabled 80% of staff to work flexibly on an informal basis, and one in five in a formal arrangement.

All employees are given a laptop and line managers have dedicated training to help manage the flexible terms.

Carolyn Morgan, director of HR at Hill Dickinson, said the company was delighted to win the award.

"We aim to support all of our colleagues in ensuring they look after their mental and physical health, and we believe allowing flexibility is an important factor in those efforts.

"This is more important than ever given the current pandemic; our strategy around flexible and agile working, and our forward-thinking use of technology have allowed a seamless move to home working," Morgan added.

For HR professionals seeking to implement best practice in their own workplaces, McLean had two pieces of advice:

She said: "Engage and listen to your workforce; and look to exploit HR analytics to enable your HR professionals to make better, evidence-based decisions.

“Attitudinal surveys are an obvious means of garnering feedback from employees on the extent to which an organisation’s HR policies are having the desired ‘life friendly’, and thus retention-positive, effect.

"Exploiting HR analytics, involving the synthesis of vast amounts of information collected from numerous sources, has certainly helped us to develop attractive policies.”

Similarly at Hill Dickinson, Morgan advised other in HR to engage with their teams and use an understanding of their needs to build a strategy.

“This will aid in those key areas of attraction, engagement and retention. Once in place, then promote your agile working policies, putting work-life balance and employee wellbeing at the forefront of your communications.

“We take pride in our ethos of flexible working, which in turn has developed a mutual trust and pride between employees and the firm,” Morgan added.

A full list of this year’s winners, comprising six further categories across best for carers and eldercare, fathers, returner programme, family network, mental health and wellbeing and small employer, will be made available today at Working Families.

Full case studies for all shortlisted entries to the 2020 Best Practice Awards can be found here.

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