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The insurance giants introduced extra paternity leave 12 months ago so they stood ready to support dads further through lockdown.
Insurance firm Zurich have been on a journey for some years moving towards flexible working and making life easier for working parents. A major milestone on that journey came a year ago with the offer of 16 weeks of paid paternity leave for new dads.
Zurich’s HR director Steve Collinson told us how the company felt it was in good stead to deal with the huge changes imposed by lockdown but still learned lessons from the experience.
At Zurich, we’ve embraced flexible working patterns in various forms for around a decade so life for us has been pretty much business as usual during Covid-19. As an early adopter of these working practices, three out of four employees already enjoy flex work. This means our transition to homeworking for all those that could was seamless.
The main adjustments were around getting everyone suitable chairs and office equipment to create a comfortable home office. For anyone that needed them, we delivered chairs to our employee’s homes to make sure everyone was safe and fully equipped to work from home safely.
When it comes to new dads, mums or anyone that’s at a life stage which requires a job that you can fit around other commitments, we’re really well set up for this. During lockdown we found that many of our employees were really struggling with work and home-schooling so we simply ‘flexed it up’ a bit more.
Managers kept in close contact with their teams to ensure they could work the hours that fitted around other commitments.
Helping parents through lockdown isn’t just about flexibility, we quickly realised there were more practical measures we could put in place. For example, we gave every employee free access to the Calm app.
Lockdown was an incredibly stressful time and we’ve had amazing feedback from our staff that it’s really helped them stay on track. This may feel like a small measure but for many it was an introduction to mindfulness that will improve the quality of their mental health forever. For many working dads, the conversation around mental health struggles can sometimes be a difficult one. An introduction to meditation and mindfulness could help them through.
Financially we also offered a range of measures to ensure employees were not unnecessarily stressed out about money. If people found themselves in financial difficulty, we offered everyone the opportunity to apply for a £750 emergency loan which is available 72 hours following approval.
We also allowed our team to sell back holidays, reduce their own pension payment commitments (whilst Zurich maintained its contributions), and refunded corporate gym memberships. For those that had invested in a car park ticket, we gave everyone a full refund completely at our own expense.
Most recently, all 4,500 UK employees were given the opportunity to take a free antibody test. This offer has been extended to partners and anyone over the age of 18 living in the family home. We did this to offer people peace of mind and some level of knowledge in such an unpredictable situation.
The results are completely confidential and have no link to return to work. When surveyed, 95% of the UK team said they would like to be tested so it was simply in response to this.
We continue to champion diversity and inclusion across our business.
The introduction of enhanced family benefits last September have been a huge success. Part of this was to offer new dads 16 weeks of fully paid paternity leave which has been really well received. We’re delighted to see so many new dads enjoying time with their children. So many companies focus on working mums but businesses have to acknowledge that the world has changed and dads want to be just as involved as their partners when it comes to family life.
For UK workers, Covid-19 has been the biggest catalyst for flexible working we’ve ever seen. This is fantastic news for parents as it will give so many more people the chance to pursue their dream career at a time and place which fits with other commitments. For us, it means we can tap into a whole new talent pool that might not be able to work for us if they had to be in office every day from 9-5. Work is very much a thing, not a place at Zurich.
The worrying thing for me is the lack of trust some businesses approach the flexible working concept with. Many use software to monitor employee activity – this lack of trust is counterproductive and will only serve to demotivate staff and reduced productivity.
At Zurich we work on a system of trust, our productivity levels are high as are our employee retention rates. We want to attract and retain the best talent to our business whilst making the physical and mental wellbeing of our staff a priority. Without these people, we wouldn’t have a business so it’s important we look after them whether it be through lockdown or any other time of the year.