Dear Employer, our campaign with Pregnant then Screwed, is back for 2019. Missed it last year, here’s everything you need to know…
Fuming that you’ve experienced or witnessed maternity discrimination? Frustrated that your employer does naff all to support parents returning to work after maternity leave? Bemused at why the maternity or parental leave package is so rubbish? Angry that flexible working is just something written about in a policy that sits in a filing cabinet marked, “to do”. Yep, us too. So how about we come together on the 30thApril and write to our previous (or current) employer to tell them how we feel?
(Letter template is at the bottom of this post)
Tuesday 30thApril 2019 is ‘’Dear Employer’’ day, a campaign by Pregnant then Screwed and Guilty Mothers Club asking parents to come together and use our collective pens to demand change by telling employers how it really is.
We launched this campaign last year hoping that if even a few joined in that could potentially make a difference to hundreds of employees. In actual fact we were amazed that over 80 women wrote to their employers, and the results were astounding.
One FTSE 100 company received 3 letters from women and their UK head of HR requested a meeting to discuss what changes they could make and to better understand where they went wrong.
Another organisation arranged listening groups around their policies and included parents who had recently returned from parental leave. Following these groups they changed their policy to reflect what they had learnt.
Hannah Brooke write about her experience of writing to her previous employer and the resulting meeting here
She said: ‘’It felt good and empowering to get this stuff off my chest – and she (her previous employer) certainly seemed to be listening.’’
Another woman said:
‘’The new chair of the board has taken the issues I have raised very seriously and we are in ongoing dialogue regarding how the company progresses in regards to maternity discrimination. He will be taking the information I have given to the next board meeting as even though I’m not pursuing a grievance, he wants it to be officially recorded. I’ve received a full apology from the chair of the board and will be getting a formal letter confirming I don’t owe them money (which is a massive relief as my previous boss had suggested I might have to pay my maternity pay back). Thank you for giving me the confidence to not let this go. I can’t begin to explain what finding your organisation has done for me.’’
And then there was this:
‘’Writing this letter was so therapeutic so really I cannot thank you enough for coming up with this truly wonderful campaign.’’
Not bad for a first attempt, eh?
But this year we want to go bigger.
Rather than just writing to a previous employer about a shitty experience (though we are still VERY much up for that if this is you), we’re taking it up a level and asking ALL PARENTS to pen a letter which will spell out what you’d like to see from your employer or previous employer.
You know things like…
- An internal parents network
- Enhanced parental leave policies
- More support for mums returning from maternity leave
- Communicating how many flexible working requests were made and how many granted
- Improvements to the maternity leave package
- Dealing with the unconscious bias towards women of childbearing age, pregnant women and new mums
- Any positive things you’d like to shout about too, think they are doing brilliantly, tell them about it!!!
Obviously you’ll want to adapt and tailor your letter depending on your personal experience and where you work but to make it quicker and easier we’ve provided you with some stats and hard facts that you might want to include. This sample letter summaries the business case for lots of this stuff
Here are some other tips for taking part:
1. Strength in numbers – getting extra signatures on your letter from others in the organisation can be hugely powerful. Even just finding a fellow parent to help you with the process can feel good. This is not about stirring up unnecessary trouble, this is about being an instigator of change and making things better for everyone, including your employer who will only benefit in the long run. You might just expand your own network in the process too.
2. Describe the difference that these changes would make. Who better to explain this than you, someone who has / is actually living and experiencing it. Be honest, offer to talk it through, this is not about having a collective moan but a positive movement to get voices heard and make employers sit up and listen so that things can be better in future.
3. Your letter can be anonymous or totally brazen, we completely understand that this will depend on your individual circumstances. Take a look at the example letter (ADD LINK) template for ideas. We’d also encourage you to write to the highest possible person in your organisation, because this is not just a HR issue, this is a business issue.
Finally…let us know about it!
The plan is that we all send our letters on the same day – The 30thApril 2019.
You can bcc us on the email or send us a separate note either just to let us know that you have taken part OR share a full copy of your letter. We won’t share publicly any specific details, this just allows us to measure the impact of the campaign, build momentum and get people listening to us. Email – firstname.lastname@example.org
And if you want to write an open letter and publish something on your blog or social media then we will happily link to it on the day.
Around this time last year we were sat in an auditorium listening to a talk on International Women’s Day. We heard about a Suffragette called Ada Nield Chew. She worked in a factory near Stoke and, angry about the poor wages that women were receiving, decided to write to her employer about it. Not one letter but many, many letters demanding better. The press picked it up, she was dismissed, undeterred she carried on…and she won. Not only that, she later went on to establish what was the start of welfare support for working parents. What an absolute legend and inspiration for us today. 100 years on and we’ve moved from pen and paper to email but yet we are still dealing with plenty of this crap.
So if you feel like your current or past employer has something to learn and improve on then we are urging you to get involved on30th April 2019. You can write your own letter or help out by sharing the campaign too on social media or with anyone you think might be up for it.
Use the #dearemployer to follow along.
I am writing to share my recent experience of pregnancy / maternity leave whilst an employee of your company.
I am writing to you as a previous employee who felt frustrated by the lack of support for pregnant women and parents in your workplace.
I hope that providing you with this honest feedback will lead to positive change for other parents within the organisation which as a result will then help you to be more successful and profitable long term because you will close your gender pay gap and retain and motivate your female talent.
OPTIONAL > This is part of a wider campaign of activity happening today, Tuesday 30th April, led by Pregnant then Screwed and the Guilty Mothers Club – hoping to highlight the issues faced by parents in the workplace and create positive change.
Here are some suggestions on how things could be improved:
– Review your policies AND implementation around flexible working, this makes a MASSIVE difference. In fact recent studies conducted by Fracti, have shown that 88% of all candidates claim they would choose a job with flexible hours and a lower salary than a higher paid role and fixed working hours. A study of UK businesses and employees by HSBC found that nine in ten employees (89%) consider flexible working to be the biggest motivator to their productivity levels within the workplace, more so than financial incentives (77%). A survey of 8,000 global employees and employers conducted by Vodafone has found that 61 percent of those polled said flexible working increased their company’s profits rather than reduced them. A further 83 per cent reported that productivity was boosted by flexible hours rather than reduced by them. It will also have an impact your retention rates and isn’t just something desired by working parents!
– Enhance your parental leave policies. Only 2% of men currently use shared parental leave, this, in part, is because fathers are not encouraged to take time out to care for their children by employers. Start encouraging them, better still, give both your female and male employees access to enhanced parental leave like Go Compare, Aviva and Deloitte have done.
Aviva’s head of people said about their policy to give both parents access to fully paid leave of 6 months: ‘’If we are going to create a diverse, inclusive workplace where everyone can thrive, we must avoid viewing people as just one thing. We want to create an environment where everyone is recognised solely for their talent.” The number of fathers who take 6 months leave after the birth of their child is two thirds.
- Many talented women leave careers because the costs of childcare outweighs the financial benefit of the job. Goldman Sachs (https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2016/jan/13/babies-at-work-onsite-childcare-office-goldman-sachs-addison-lee ) and other forward thinking organisations that recognise this problem have taken measures to provide child care facilities on site or partner with external child care providers. These changes have improved the appeal of the organisations to other brilliant female employees looking for more family friendly places to work.
– Train the line managers in your business to manage the pregnancy / maternity leave process, both from a legal perspective and also human. Equip them to have quality conversations, identify unconscious bias and improve communication all round.
-Offer more support for women returning from maternity leave. This could be in the form of returner workshops, maternity mentoring, buddy systems and line manager training, as above. My own return was…. and the impact of something like this would have been…
– Set up a working parents network – a free, self led initiative providing a forum and support for those in your organisation balancing work and family life. Ensure it has a senior sponsor.
– Please know that working parents are not a burden, they are not less motivated, less capable, less ambitious, in fact often the exact opposite. We return with a huge range of new skills, strengths, fresh perspective and new ideas. Tap into this and you retain talented committed, loyal employees who will continue to progress with your organisation and give you the gender diversity in senior roles that makes a difference to the bottom line.
A recent study from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis found that over the course of a 30-year career, mothers outperformed women without children at almost every stage of the game. In fact, mothers with at least two kids were the most productive of all.
McKinsey found that companies in the top quartile for gender diversity on their exec teams were 21% more likely to experience above average profitability than those in the fourth quartile. OR you could just ignore this and spend around £5k on average recruiting someone new and yet more cash in training them.
– There are many brilliant, cost effective training programmes out there to help you improve on these areas. Have a look at GenderingChange.com who run workshops on unconscious bias towards parents, flexible working and job shares, your legal obligations and how to create a really effective return to work.
– Don’t assume that just because you have the policies in place the culture follows. Take the time to really listen, honestly, confidentially if necessary, to what is happening inside your organisation. Run the figures on retention rates around women of a certain age, monitor progression levels, spot the patterns.
Thank you for taking the time to listen to my experience and I urge you to action where applicable.
Optional > I’d be more than happy to discuss my experience with you further and talk through my suggestions if that would help.