Working Families Best Practice Awards celebrate employers who offer flexibility to all their staff and going above and beyond in their support for parents and carers. The British Army has been shortlisted in the Best for Mothers category.
From Flexible Service and Flexible Working through to Defence Wrap Around Childcare and Future Accommodation Trials, the Army is leading the way across UK businesses. 97.9 per cent of women taking maternity leave returned to work in 2018 and 58 per cent were still serving five years after taking maternity leave in 2014.
This is a great achievement for the British Army. Support for Army parents continues to grow year on year, and it is fantastic that we have been recognised in this way." Lt Col Trigger Buxton
The Army’s maternity leave offer includes 26 weeks at full pay; 13 weeks of Statutory Maternity Pay and 13 weeks unpaid. Shared Parental Leave matches this offer. Mothers are entitled to paid time off for IVF, antenatal and pre-adoption appointments.
A professional parents' network offers support and advice to members and a sub-network (set up and run by a junior serving mum) providing advice to breastfeeding women supports both serving individuals and their spouses. A couple's network supports couples who are both employed within the organisation and may be employed in different locations.
A maternity and breastfeeding passport launched at the end of 2020 shows the chain of command the legal requirements within the workplace for a breastfeeding mum. Military specific legislation is in place to protect breastfeeding servicewomen and to ensure their bodies and their mental health are looked after.
In addition to this a board-level champion represents the views and lived experiences of all parents at the highest levels of the Army.
Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan ‘Trigger’ Buxton, Chair of the Army Parents’ Network, said: “This is a great achievement for the British Army. Support for Army parents continues to grow year on year, and it is fantastic that we have been recognised in this way.”
In 2020, the organisation reviewed and updated its commitment to gender equality by publishing a revised 10-year plan to increase the inflow, representation, retention and progression of women.
Other areas where the Army is supporting women who are raising children is through the Diversity and inclusion strategy, delivered through a quarterly working group and accountable to the board's personnel director. The group includes representation from both genders, all employee networks and from junior staff. A dedicated post to support the women's network has been endorsed, demonstrating further support to serving mothers.
Jane van Zyl, Chief Executive of Working Families and Chair of the judging panel, said: “Huge congratulations to the British Army. Making it through to this stage in such a competitive year demonstrates they are leaders in creating supportive, flexible working cultures.
“The British Army’s outstanding entry in the Best for Mothers award caught the attention of the judging panel and stood out amongst a record number of entries.
“This last year has been exceptionally challenging for everyone, and particularly for many working parents who’ve had to find ways to balance work with caring for children. We know that where employers have adopted flexible working practices, that balancing act has been made far less stressful for individuals and allowed employees to be as productive as possible in their role.”
Employers of all sizes from different sectors compete annually to reach the shortlist of the competition, now in its 12thyear. The winners will be announced on 27 May 2021.