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Top employers for Working Families 3/5: Chelsea and Westminster NHS Foundation Trust

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Winners of the prestigious Top Employers for Working Families awards 2012 were announced on Tuesday. In recognition of the companies who go the extra mile for working families, we profile five of the best in a special weeklong series. Today it is the turn of Chelsea and Westminster NHS Foundation Trust.

Chelsea and Westminster NHS Foundation Trust

NHS Trust

3,000 employees

Nominated for: Flexible working, Carers and eldercare

The Trust recognised that there was a gap between what staff and managers thought of as flexible working. What was needed was to develop employees' understanding of the policies and practices that underpinned the flexible working culture already in place.

To address this, a training programme was implemented to emphasise the discussion necessary for flexible working. Guidance was developed to assist staff making a request. Managers received information to enable them to manage requests more confidently. In the guidance, the more positive benefits of flexibility are highlighted, with examples and case studies. Employees are also coached to think in terms of a business case when requesting a flexible working arrangement.

Managers have been further supported with one-to-one coaching, discussing general and specific matters with an HR specialist. It was an initiative that received high praise from the managers involved.

In addition, guidance aimed specifically at carers, covering subjects like how to talk to a line manager about caring responsibilities, information on emergency leave for carers and the different types of working patterns which may be suitable has also been implemented. Lunchtime sessions have been arranged so staff can drop in and share experiences with others in a similar position. External organisations are also invited to give talks and answer questions.

"We have shifted the emphasis from just the carer and invited managers to come along to the lunchtime sessions," says Amber Payne, employee benefits manager at

Chelsea & Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust."That has been really useful because it's the manager that comes up with a lot of the questions, making the process much more collaborative between manager and carer."

"The whole issue of supporting carers is so multi-faceted, you have to react to each situation differently," she explains. "The more support the manager gets, the better.

"We very much try to accommodate anyone's personal circumstances. And we are trying to tailor all the benefits we are implementing to suit our demographic: because we are a Central London hospital, when people have children they are more likely to be living further away. So, we set up workplace nursery arrangements close to where people live, rather than the hospital."