Best for SMEs: birdie

Mandy Garner talks to birdie, winner of this year’s Best for SMEs category in the WM People Top Employer Awards.

birdie homecare working dads


birdie works with homecare businesses to support the delivery of care to older adults through the provision of high-quality software and digital tools. Its emphasis is on wellbeing, preventative healthcare and inclusion for its employees as well as support for the older people and care partners it works with.

It views wellbeing in the round, offering everything from a £180 wellbeing benefit every quarter which can be used on anything from childcare to counselling to a one to one session with a financial adviser so people can plan ahead. When it comes to financial wellbeing, it also benchmarks its employees’ salaries every year against industry standards.

Its other financial benefits are equally impressive for a small company and include an enhanced parental leave policy of 26 weeks at full pay for primary carers and 12 weeks full pay for secondary carers.  Mel Murphy, People Lead, says enhanced parental leave was an early policy and  has had a definite impact on rates of return.

The company has been growing steadily and sustainably since 2017, including through the Covid period, and is now reaching a stage of hyper growth. Murphy recalls going on leave for two weeks and the number of staff jumping from 122 to 136. There are currently 141 employees and the company is setting up a team in Germany which has a good social care safety net. The aim is to provide services outside the UK. Indeed birdie already has contractors across the world working for it, although most are based in the UK. Contractors mainly work in locations that are within three hours of GMT so that their hours overlap with the UK team. The international spread of employees ranges from Europe to Kenya, Nigeria and Brazil.

The company puts a lot of focus on asynchronous working and doesn’t expect people to reply instantly. “We tag people in documents and wait for their response when they are available. We have harnessed that way of work from the very beginning. It has been a conscious investment to make it work,” says Murphy.

Birdie has always been flexible, she adds. Each team decides on what their core hours should be and people are free to book appointments and take time out without having to inform on their every movement as long as it doesn’t impact their work, for instance, calls to care agencies. Those teams that work with customers on its chat forum have fixed shifts, but can opt into overtime and can book time off for appointments.

Most employees work a hybrid pattern. Its serviced office in London is open from 9am-6pm for those who want to work there and Murphy says people naturally come to the office a couple of days a week, although there is no pressure to. She goes into the office a couple of times a month. Most employees work full time and Murphy says the general flexibility to work around other demands means there is little demand for part-time options. The company, however, offers a gradual return after parental leave and has a 100% retention rate.

Manager coaching circles

Murphy is currently very focused on upskilling the company’s line managers. She has launched manager coaching circles where managers can be vulnerable and talk about what works and what doesn’t, being able to ask for help, having time to reflect on how different ways of working impact different individuals and finding a mutually beneficial middle ground when it comes to flexible working. “We take a conscious approach to investing in manager skills,” she says, adding that the focus is on helping managers to have conversations with their team members and create trust. “We are trying to find the best practice for individual teams based on what they are trying to achieve. That helps everyone and means they can be confident enough to be a bit rebellious.”

Murphy adds that the company pays close attention to its employee surveys, checking to ensure that people are happy and their wellbeing needs are met. Most recently team members rated their job satisfaction at 91%, feeling ‘fit and belonging’ at 94% and engagement at 96%.

When it comes to gender diversity, birdie has a good record considering it is based in the tech sector, which is known for its low representation of women.  Forty nine per cent of its new team members in 2022 identify as female and women make up 44% of its staff. Women are also present across all senior levels of the business, with over a third (36.4%) of senior and middle management positions held by women and a quarter at board level. It has an off_gals affinity group on slack to share content, tips and tools that particularly promote and help women. Both women and their allies can join. Murphy says it offers a safe space where people can share articles and advice. She adds that the company’s good representation of women in senior leadership roles has not been due to any deliberate policy targeting them, although the general flexible culture and open hiring processes aid inclusion. The company is currently working to improve its age diversity and has been talking about offering a kinship leave policy for grandparents. Other affinity groups include a remote parents group which includes a lot of dads sharing photos, experiences and advice.


Birdie places a big emphasis on wellbeing. In addition to its quarterly wellbeing payments, it offers 20 days of paid sick leave a year and 10 wellbeing days. There are five paid days of compassionate leave, which can be taken flexibly and which managers can extend at their discretion. Compassionate leave can be used for a wide range of issues, including pregnancy loss and birdie also signposts those taking it to any other support they might need. In addition, the company also offers five paid fertility leave days a year, which also covers perimenopausal women who might need their hormone levels checked. Birdie is also looking to do more training of line managers around fertility issues. Murphy is very passionate about reproductive health, having previously worked for the digital health app Peppy. “We are really keen to support our people’s wellbeing, to support anything that helps people show up to work,” she says, adding that the wellbeing budget puts people in charge of their own health. Birdie also offers subsidised access to the Vitality PMI private healthcare scheme. Vitality offers menopause support that serves the older members of birdie’s team, who can also add dependents for free.

To complement its wellbeing strategies, there is a focus on preventive health.  The company has an occupational health budget, covers working from home equipment, such as wrist support, and has a learning and development budget of £250 a year per person. Murphy says: “We want our people to thrive. We spend a lot of time and money hiring incredible candidates. It is our responsibility to make sure they can thrive and develop and see a future for themselves.”

*For information on all the winners and, crucially, what they do and what impact this has in the WM People Top Employer Awards, look out for our Best Practice Report, coming this month. 

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