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Cleaning and gardening company Carty Services boasts a suite of family friendly policies. Which is why it won one of our awards.
As is so often the case, it’s people with experience of life as a working parent that start companies with good practice built in.
That’s certainly the case at Carty Services.
The firm was named Top Employer for smaller SMEs at our awards last year. Family friendly policies are baked in. Because the company was established to be flexible from the off for its founder Martin Carty.
He was a house husband looking to go back to work on part-time hours that worked around his wife’s shifts when he set up Carty Services 10 years ago.
He was initially refused a bank loan to get the company up and running. The bank did not accept that a company could be run by a manager working part time and employing mainly part-time staff!
Martin has since proved the bank wrong, employing eight permanent members of staff, both part and full time. And the business has reported impressive growth of 20% or more every year for a number of years.
Given its origins, flexibility is at the core of the business. Martin has been keen to help others who need to work flexibly. That includes term-time only and part time/school hours. Moreover, full-time employees finish at 4.15pm so they can spend time with their families.
Workers start on zero hours. After a trial period to test things like whether they can cope with being out in all weather and with the physicality of the job they’re able to take on regular hours. Once on a regular contract, Martin provides regular opportunities for employees to adjust their hours to suit their needs. There is an annual review of hours, but Martin also checks on any potential changes on a weekly basis. He tailors the schedule to employees needs, ensuring that they also fit client demand. Clients are usually on a monthly contract.
Hours can, for instance, be tweaked to cater for unexpected problems such as family illnesses. The employee reschedules missed hours into the weekly or monthly timetable.
Due to the seasonal nature of the work, employees work fewer hours in winter so they may be able to make up lost hours in the winter months, provided the work is available.
Another key element of Martin’s family friendly approach is that he makes sure that workers who have to pick up children after school are placed at very local sites.
Employees are very proud of the flexibility Carty Services offers and say it delivers several business benefits. “It’s our USP. It is what makes us different from everyone else,” says former manager Debbie Bloomfield. She recently moved to a new full-time compliance and health & safety role at a top university. She says that’s thanks to the skills she developed and the training she received with Carty Services. Debbie had been with the company for over 10 years as has another member of the team.
Debbie says Carty Services’ flexible culture has resulted in high retention rates in an industry renowned for its high turnover rates. “People do stay. Martin says anything over five years is very unusual because of the nature of the work,” she states. “The flexible working is a massive retention tool.”
So how does it all work? Martin has developed a system of annualised hours contracts. So although the workload varies over the course of the year, wages for that year are spread equally over 12 months. That gives employees the security of receiving a regular income despite the seasonal nature of the work.
Martin is the logistics lynchpin of the organisation and knows everyone’s schedule. But the general manager keeps a record of how many hours everyone has worked in a week based on people reporting in their daily hours via text. That means managers know how many hours are still to be worked on any given contract. The secret to the system is regular communication, a well developed sense of camaraderie and trust.
Martin is very clear that in return for the flexibility he offers working parents he gets a lot back, not just in the form of reduced absence rates or loyalty, but additional skills. For example, one mum previously worked for many years in IT and was able to help build the company website. Another worked in Human Resources and was able to help draft an induction document for new employees.
In addition to making the most of existing skills, Martin is also keen for workers to get the training they need to progress, whatever shift pattern they work. All staff get six days a year practical garden maintenance training which is delivered by a qualified lecturer in horticulture.
Other family friendly benefits include an extra day’s leave for those who become grandparents which can be taken at any point in the year after the birth.
Martin also provides opportunities for his employees to bring their families to social events, such as his annual summer barbecue.
This is the second time Carty Services has won a Top Employer Award for its flexible, family-friendly approach. In its application for this year’s award, the company lists some of the awards it has won and says simply: “This all goes to prove that a company can be very successful while, at the same time, doing all it can to support family life and promote a healthy work-life balance.”