Working Families announces 2019 Best Practice Awards winners

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The organisations celebrated in Working Families' Best Practice Awards have been revealed

Now in their 10th year, the Working Families Best Practice Awards recognise employers leading the way in flexible and employee-friendly workplaces.

This year’s awards, for which HR magazine is media partner, saw a record number of entries for the 12 categories across a range of work/life policies and practices.

For the first time Working Families presented a Best for Mental Health & Wellbeing Award, sponsored by Schroders.

Jane van Zyl, chief executive of Working Families, said: “Our research shows that while 86% of parents in the UK want to work flexibly less than half actually do. To close this gap we need employers to step up, to innovate, and to create policies, practices and cultures that work for people and work for the business.

"Today’s winners are doing just that: taking creative approaches to embedding flexibility, building supportive cultures, and listening to and learning from their employees.”

Speaking at the awards, co-founder of Mother Pucka Matt Farquharsan told how he and his wife set up the Flex Appeal campaign, to encourage people to talk to their employers about flexible working after his wife was refused a request to change her working day by 15 minutes.

“Whatever your definition of family is, a little bit of flexibility can go a long way in making your life much easier and in making the logistics of work and life work for you,” he said.

“Nine million people want some form of flexible working but don’t have access to it and it’s something that eventually won’t be a choice for companies but will be something every organisation has to do and give.”

He encouraged the audience to “keep doing what you’re doing, do more, and do it better”.

The awards coincided with Working Families’ national campaign, Go Home on Time Day, which encourages people across the UK to finish work on time on the longest day of the year, 21 June. It aims to start a national discussion about work/life balance and employee wellbeing.

Here are the winners of the Working Families Best Practice Awards 2019 in full:

Best for Mothers

WINNER – Barclays

Offering enhanced maternity pay from day one, support for employees undergoing fertility treatment, mandatory training for managers, a Parenting Portal, coaching and flexible working means 90% of mothers return to Barclays after having their baby.

Best for Fathers

WINNER – Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield

Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield provides four weeks' fully-paid paternity leave, which can be taken flexibly and is available from day one of employment. It also offers enhanced shared parental pay of three months at full pay and three months at half pay, which was taken up by 31% of eligible fathers in 2018. All formal flexible working requests from men were approved.

COMMENDED – Deloitte

Best for Carers & Eldercare

WINNER – Centrica

Employees can take 10 days of paid carers' leave and a further 10 days if each one is matched by a day from their annual leave allowance. There is a ‘carers declaration’ within the HR system to enable the company to understand more about the growing number of carers and their specific support needs across locations. It also helps employees explain their situation when their line manager changes. Huge savings on unplanned absence have been reported, due partly to support for those with caring responsibilities.

Best Flexible Working Initiativesponsored by NHS Employers

WINNER – MHA Larking Gowen

Encouraging flexible hours and remote working from home or client offices along with an office redesign to create quiet space, hot desks and collaborative space, has increased chargeable time while reducing sickness, absenteeism, staff turnover and costly overtime.

Best for Embedded Flexibility – sponsored by Arnold Clark

WINNER – Morgan Sindall Construction & Infrastructure

Incorporating greater flexibility in job roles and regularly communicating the benefits of flexible working to staff means more than 60% of employees now work flexibly, and job applications have increased by 38%.

COMMENDED – Deloitte

Best for Flexible Recruitment

WINNER – Arnold Clark

Switching to a five-day working week (previously six) and using social media to showcase the flexible work patterns of a diverse range of employees, including parents who’ve been promoted, has resulted in a dramatic increase in the number of women recruited. The business is also receiving high-quality applicants who may not have considered a role in the industry before.

Best Small Private Sector Employer

WINNER – Response IT

Open to flexibility from day one and discussing changes to working patterns at any time, this company finds solutions to keep talent while maintaining customer service levels. Employee turnover is very low and the business continues to grow.

Best for Line Manager Support

WINNER – Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield

Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield provides a comprehensive range of measures to ensure that line managers are supported and supportive, including one-to-one guidance from HR, guides and checklists, and mandatory training in supporting employees transitioning into caring, job design, and how to manage flexible workers.

Best Innovation – sponsored by ILF Scotland

WINNER – Waltham Forest Council

Extended maternity and paternity leave with full pay is offered to employees who have a baby born prematurely – before 37 weeks – for the time the baby is in hospital up to the original due date.

Best Returner Programme – sponsored by Royal Bank of Canada

WINNER – Morgan Sindall Construction & Infrastructure

A successful returnship programme aimed at all genders, all ages and all levels of discipline is discovering and developing skilled male and female employees for roles that usually suffer from a shortage of good candidates. Featuring a phased returner programme (starting part time), each permanent role offers flexibility and a range of ongoing support.

Best Family Network

WINNER – Royal Bank of Scotland

A global Families and Carers Network with 1,250 members – including 250 members of a new Fertility and Loss group – offers peer support, including meetings with employees and line managers to ensure discretionary policies are applied consistently.

Best for Mental Health & Wellbeing – sponsored by Schroders

WINNER – Financial Ombudsman Service

A wide range of activities and communications to de-stigmatise mental health, with mental health first aiders, ‘boosting resilience sessions’ and tips on how to start a conversation about mental health, have helped to drive down sickness absence rates.

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