Flexible working is the cornerstone of creating a family-friendly culture at shoe repair and locksmith business Timpson.
Employees at the organisation are not supplied any free or subsidised childcare and there are no on-site crèches or nurseries, but chairman John Timpson believes that by being flexible where possible and understanding working parents’ responsibilities, employees are able to fit their jobs around them.
“You make the hours possible,” he says. “We don’t do anything special beyond the norm, other than being helpful to working parents wherever we possibly can.”
Timpson aims to ensure this right to access flexible working is fairly accessible across the whole workforce, making it a benefit that all employees can feel comfortable approaching their manager to ask for. He also adds the new legislation regarding the right to work flexibly will have no impact on the firm as it already has an ingrained culture of flexibility.
“We don’t see flexible working as a childcare thing. Whether it’s someone looking after their children or someone who wants to do archery three days a week – if that’s what they really want to do, then we’ll see how we can support it. The legislation isn’t something that would make any difference to us,” he adds.
However, it is the way the firm deals with employees’ return to work that is the real innovation. Career breaks at the company are accepted, and the value of this among employees who have just had a child is firmly understood.
Timpson says career breaks of three or four years following the birth of a child have “no effect” on future career prospects, and this way employees can spend valuable time with their children.
“One of the reasons why both mothers and fathers go back to work too soon is because they’re frightened of losing their place in the pecking order. We think it’s more important that they actually give their time to their children at the youngest age – that’s so important – and we see no problem in employees being off for three or four years until all the children are all happily in school,” he adds.
“I think far too much emphasis is put on to expensive childcare when people should be looking at culture and attitudes as far as people having career breaks.” And Timpson makes it clear this is not a childcare issue, but about creating a workplace culture that suits all employees “for who they are and what they want”.
“The business case is very simple: the more flexible you are in the way you look after your people, the better people you will get to work for you – and the better people we’ve got, the better business we’ll do,” he concludes.
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