Direct from today’s prestigious award ceremony, we are proud to announce the inaugural Fathers Network Scotland prize for the most father-friendly employer in Scotland.
IT’S official: West Dunbartonshire Council is Scotland’s best employer for all stages of fatherhood!
The public sector employer fought off stiff competition to receive the coveted title from Fathers Network Scotland at this afternoon’s inaugural Scottish Top Employers for Working Families Awards, attended by Fiona McLeod MSP, acting Minister for Children and Young People.
A buzzing audience at Surgeons’ Hall in Edinburgh heard how WDC demonstrates its commitment to being a top employer for fathers through a range of father friendly policies and a proactive approach to culture change. Current policies are impressive, including enhanced paternity leave, special leave, dependants’ leave, personal days, and paid time off for antenatal appointments.
The Best for All Stages of Fatherhood Award, sponsored by Centrica, was one of six categories at the event organised by Family Friendly Working Scotland – a partnership of Working Families, Fathers Network Scotland, Parenting Across Scotland and the Scottish Government, which funds and supports FFWS.
WINNERS IN FULL
It’s clear that many of Scotland’s leading employers are embracing family friendly and flexible working, judging by the high calibre of entries from large and small organisations across Scotland. The first ever winners of these awards were named as:
Best Large Private Employer 2015
Winner: Centrica Commended: Skyscanner Sponsor: Maclay Murray and Spens LLP
Best Large Public Sector Employer 2015
Winner: Scottish Water Commended: Scottish Parliament
Best Small Employer 2015
Winner: Badenoch and Clark
Fathers Network Scotland Award for Best for all Stages of Fatherhood
Winner: West Dunbartonshire Council Sponsor by: Centrica
Parenting Across Scotland Award for Best for Childcare
Winner Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations
Carers Scotland Award for Best for Carers and Eldercare
Joint winner: Centrica Joint winner: Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service
Highly commended: Carers of West Lothian
Speaking at the ceremony, Fiona McLeod MSP, Acting Minister for Children and Young People, said: “The calibre of entrants for these inaugural awards has been extremely high and I’m delighted that we’ve been able to recognise the work of so many family friendly organisations today. Finding a good work-family life balance is a challenge that many parents and carers face and it is heartening to see today’s winners are doing all they can to help their employees find a good balance and to realise their career and family aspirations.”
HOW WDC DID IT
So how exactly did West Dunbartonshire Council set the bar so high for addressing the importance of fathers’ roles within the family?
It seems the progressive approach to work-life balance has come from the very top. WDC’s chief executive and most senior working parent, Joyce White, launched the authority’s Be the Best strategy in 2014, believing that family friendly policies can only enhance employee performance and create an environment in which everyone can excel. Today that proved a win-win strategy in more ways than one.
“I am absolutely delighted that the Council has won one of these prestigious awards,” said Angela Wilson, WDC’s Executive Director of Corporate Services. “To have won one award and been shortlisted for a further three awards really marks the Council out as progressive employer and a leader in the field, and recognises our supportive and family friendly policies and working practices.”
As part of its commitment to supporting fathers at every stage of their children’s development, the organisation offers enhanced paternity leave, special leave, dependants leave, personal days and flexitime. Expectant partners are also provided with paid time off for antenatal appointments, which are not limited to a set number but adjusted to suit individual needs.
A DAD IN CHARGE
Significantly, leadership on work targeting fathers is provided at Executive Director level by someone who is himself a working dad. Richard Cairns has taken on the role of Council’s Fathers’ Champion alongside his post as Executive Director of Housing, Environmental and Economic Development. The fact that Richard heads up a largely male part of the organisation means that his champion role sends a very clear message that flexibility is not just for women.
WDC has paid careful attention both to metrics and to employee feedback in designing and improving its policy and its interventions to make change happen. For example, on discovering that over 75% of childcare voucher take-up was by female employees, WDC launched a campaign targeting men. Pay slip notices, poster and leaflet promotion and reminders in team briefings, especially those attended by mostly men, resulted in a 5% increase in uptake. This approach is now being developed to achieve change in other areas such as take-up of paternity and shared parental leave.
Fathers who want their pattern of work to enable them to spend more time with their families are benefiting greatly from a positive approach to flexible working. “To work full-time and still see my children regularly is great,” said one employee who has a flexible working arrangement. “I’m able to spend Fridays with them. I take them to soft play and really enjoy my daddy time. It also means I am more engaged and productive at work.”
OTHER DAD-FRIENDLY FINALISTS
Other finalists in the category Best at All Stages of Fatherhood, were Age Scotland and the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations. The judges found that Age Scotland was specifically attuned to the needs of fathers as well as being generally flexible, open, supportive and quick to accommodate the needs of parents.
Meanwhile SCVO demonstrated a culture of understanding and support, in which fathers are encouraged to take time to spend with their family. Among other things, employees benefit from paid time off to volunteer, with many fathers using this time to support their children’s activities for example, at school, football teams and youth groups.
Sam Pringle, Co-chair of Fathers Network Scotland was delighted to have the chance to highlight father-focused, good practice in workplaces across Scotland. “We hope this award will inspire organisations from all sectors to recognise the strong business case for addressing the needs of working fathers and their families,” she said. “Not least because those who feel recognised and supported as dads make highly motivated and reliable employees.”
FLEXIBLE = PRODUCTIVE
That win-win synergy was clearly in evidence today. Long working hours, long commutes and lack of time to spend caring for family are common issues for working families in Scotland, who find themselves time poor, cash poor and often both. But the awards showed how family friendly and flexible working could also deliver increased productivity and performance, reduced absenteeism, better morale and wellbeing, as well as improving staff retention and recruitment.
“The quality of entries was exceptional,” said Sarah Jackson OBE, the CEO Working Families who chaired the judging panel. “Organisations of all sizes and sectors across Scotland are wholeheartedly embracing family friendly flexible working – and there’s is a clear understanding of the benefits this brings to business, family life, society and the economy.”
Less than a week before the official start of Shared Parental Leave on 5th April – which allows parents to split up to 50 weeks of maternity leave between them – we at Fathers Network Scotland believe there’s never been a better time for dads to request flexible working.
Here at Fathers Network Scotland, we encourage organisations large and small to see working dads in particular as a huge asset and embrace the progressive policies which have proved so fruitful for today’s finalists.
Who knows, perhaps we will see your organisation collecting an award next year?