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Flexible working: your stories of supporting pregnancy and maternity

Get insights into how other Working Forward members such as Nationwide and Royal Mail have put flexible working arrangements in place.

Emma Wickham and Toni Jeffryes talk to Delivery Sector Manager, Marie Forrester, about how job sharing has enabled them to fast-track their career at Royal Mail while staying on top of their childcare commitments. It also allows Royal Mail Group to make full use of their talent pipeline by developing more of the women already working for the organisation

The job share was first conceived when Toni met Marie while she was speaking at one of Royal Mail’s Springboard events. These events aim to inspire women and help them reach their full potential.

"We needed to change our overall approach to flexible working, so that our policy could be used to its full advantage for the benefit of our employees and business."

Julie McCarthy, Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Manager

Nationwide wants to build an agile talented and diverse workforce to enable our organisation, our people and our customers to thrive now and in the future. A core part of our equality, diversity and inclusion strategy is workplace flexibility.

Like many organisations we have recognised that despite a clear and supportive policy, our working culture has struggled to embrace flexible working fully. This has been exacerbated by an apparent lack of senior leaders who have role modelled flexible working, and a reliance on face-to-face meetings, and lower-than-average work-life balance scores for middle and senior management. Internal research also revealed that barriers to working more flexibly were seen as key factors to inhibiting career progression. 

We needed to change our overall approach to flexible working, so that our comprehensive policy could be used to its full advantage for the benefit of our employees and business, by:

  • Raising awareness of our policy, sharing success stories and increasing the visibility of role models across the business, including in the branch network.
  • Developing line manager resources, training and advice.
  • Increasing the number of job roles at middle management and above that were suitable for part-time working or job sharing.

We made real progress in changing attitudes and being creative about working patterns. In our branches where, for example, home working is clearly not an option, some flexibility not only works but is required to ensure that we have cover at all times. This can benefit both the business and employees – for example, some staff may choose to work every Saturday, taking time off in the week which could cut childcare costs.

In our head office and admin sites a recent initiative to promote flexible working has reduced the number of desks and freed up space for video conferencing and collaboration areas. Use of technology has reduced the number of face-to-face meetings, resulting in cost avoidance at the very highest level and increased flexibility for our employees.

Our flexible working approach is certainly moving at pace, but we still have more work to do. Job sharing, which can be a great solution to part time working in senior roles, is part of our policy but is not yet widely taken up – our next key priority.

We interview Working Forward member Cooperatives UK, a national membership body based in Manchester, about why they have decided to advertise all their roles as flexible from the point of hire. 

We also hear from a candidate, Wendy Carter, who was recently recruited to the senior role of Head of Communications and Marketing at Cooperatives UK in response to their first advertisement with flexible working opportunities. 

Read the interview (Word document)

Last updated: 27 Apr 2022