Mumsnet Family Friendly Programme
The Mumsnet Family Friendly programme launched last year with a big aim - to make Britain the most Family Friendly Country in Europe.
Our challenge was to encourage companies to join us and let us into their organisations to see what is making life easier for families both as customers and as members of staff - and, of course, what's also making life harder. We've gleaned some fascinating insights and hope to be able to share some of them so that more companies can become Family Friendly.
- The companies that have joined the programme so far have shown a real willingness to engage and a genuine enthusiasm to make their companies more Family Friendly. We were given unprecedented access both to internal policies and to staff.
- Retaining staff, particularly senior female staff, remains a major issue for companies. We were pleased to welcome firms that do not have a public face to the programme, including Squire Sanders Hammonds (a law firm), Edelman PR and Starcom MediaVest (media agency). Their interest in the programme highlights the importance of family friendliness in attracting and keeping key staff.
- We were also delighted to be able to gather feedback from parents working in different sectors, including manufacturing, retail, travel and telecoms. One of the surprises of the process was the proportion of Dads returning surveys - more than 30% of respondents were fathers.
What we learnt about Family Friendliness within a company
- Small things matter
Staff talked about how much they value practical things like having a meeting policy that means meetings operate in core hours and don't run on late. Firms that book meetings to start at 5pm make life very difficult for parents. It's often a change of culture that's needed rather than new buildings or even expensive policies.
- Family Friendly training is needed
Most of the companies involved in the programme were able to offer more than statutory benefits (eg maternity leave etc), but staff frequently reported that ultimately, decisions on flexibility etc came down to whether their line manager was sympathetic - rather than what the company policy said. The more junior staff were, the more likely this was to be the case.
"My DS works for a so-called family friendly company, according to their policies, but in reality they are terrible. Don't be taken in just by what they say or claim on paper - talk to their actual employees and find out the truth."
- Good policies shouldn't be a secret
We were surprised to find that some excellent policies weren't promoted, and occasionally staff were clearly not aware of their entitlements.
"There are policies in place, but they're not that well-publicised."
"While individual managers often take a family-friendly approach, the HR department's view seems less family friendly. If there is a family-friendly strategy, there is no evidence of it being promoted through the management and in HR decisions."
- What about Dads?
There was clear evidence that Mums were finding it easier to work flexibly and to combine their role as a parent and an employee. However, this was much less clear for fathers - where it did exist it was obviously really valued.
"I believe that fathers are entirely overlooked here on the family friendly front."
"My career is massively important to me, but it's nowhere near as important as my full time role as Dad. I'm flexible - often to the point of being workaholic during holidays - but I could not be happier with the support I've had during some testing family times."
"I believe paternity entitlement is poor, as although you are given 2 days off you have to take the remainder of that week off on statutory paternity pay. Therefore, you have the choice of having the week off and losing a good chunk of income or taking holiday pay instead for the week. I chose to take the holidays rather than lose income and forfeited my right to the 2 days off. Friends of mine get a whole week off paid as a minimum."