Employee Benefits Awards 2010: Most effective benefits strategy for working parents and carers


NHS Bradford and Airedale District Childcare support service

This winning entry focuses specifically on working mothers, but it was its range and innovation that made it stand out from other entrants.

The strategy covers a large workforce across four NHS trusts, and it has been in development since 2002, gradually adding initiatives. Because of its size, it can have a dedicated childcare team to manage all strands.

There is a big emphasis on getting mothers back to work after maternity leave, because, as the entry points out, it is expensive to replace them if they do not return to work. It therefore includes schemes such ‘Keep in touch’, which includes a maternity workshop where women can meet colleagues who are also pregnant; free weekly pregacise (pregnancy exercise) classes before and during maternity leave; and free baby massages once the baby is born (another chance to meet colleagues who are new parents).

The trusts also communicate heavily with mothers to let them know what support is available when they return to work, through bi-monthly newsletters, drop-in sessions, roadshows, and internet and intranet sites.

Although the trusts have two on-site nurseries with 134 places, many more places are needed, so the trusts also offer access to 72 minders and have negotiated discounts of 5-15% with more than 40 childcare providers.
All this helps to reduce absence resulting from the stress parents may feel when trying to balance their home and work life.

The results from this entrant are particularly compelling, with the proportion of mothers returning to work after maternity leave increasing steadily from about 75% in 2006 to over 90% in 2009.

Highly commended
University of Lincoln Your benefits, your choice at UOL
This is a clever employee-driven strategy whereby the human resources department has maximised on-site facilities, as well as facilitated networking and local alliances to provide better services for families. The judges were particularly impressed with the support groups for carers and the links to the local football club to enhance family fun and fitness. The staff survey shows that 90% of employees feel supported by the university in their work-life balance.

Runners up
E.On My choice (entered by Accor Services)
This entrant recognised the importance of targeting male (and not just female) staff to promote its strategies that support working parents (a demographic E.On has recognised is important to its success as a business). This is particularly important in an industry where most engineers are men and there is a national shortage of qualified engineers. The firm offers a wide range of benefits that appeal to parents, from childcare vouchers (with a 5% take-up) to activity discounts. The firm cleverly communicates ‘family friendly’ as part of its recruitment drives in the local community.

Procter & Gamble P&G’s family advisory service (entered by My Family Care)
This fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) firm has a wide range of established family-friendly benefits, including maternity/paternity leave, an employee assistance programme, childcare vouchers (with a 9% take-up), adoption support, family care leave, parenting and carer networks, and flexible working. Its newest addition is a family advisory service to support new parents, for example during their transition back to work, to find back-up care when normal care arrangements fall through, and to help with eldercare. This support goes much further than many employers do in the UK today.

See full list of winners and finalists for the Employee Benefits Awards 2010