Belfast Health and Social Care Trust

“As a working mum of three children, I have never missed a milestone in their lives. The Trust supports me with FlexiTime to help maintain a good work-life balance. The maternity information session enabled me to make informed decisions prior to maternity leave and on returning to work. My daughter has also availed of the Trust’s Summer Scheme – this has made my summer so much easier and stress-free knowing that she is in a fun and safe environment. It is also a great help financially to be able to use the Childcare Voucher scheme to pay for such”.

Danielle Melville, HR Administrator

In the second of our series of interviews with Family Friendly Employer Awards 2017 winners, learn from Samantha Whann, Senior HR Manager for Belfast Health and Social Care Trust (BHSCT), on how being a recognised family friendly employer yields business benefits, and how their work doesn’t stop there—as they look ahead to improving family friendly policies in the future. BHSCT won Highly Commended in the Public Sector category in 2017, and was the Overall Winner in 2016.

In what way do family friendly initiatives benefit your organisation?

Working for a large public sector organisation enables our employees to enjoy nationally agreed terms and conditions.

Belfast Health & Social Care Trust aims to be an Employer of Choice and is always seeking to develop the range of employee support policies and initiatives that enhance the working lives of our staff and enable them to balance their home and personal lives with work. We have a range of flexible working arrangements designed to support staff and enable the organisation to meet our 24/7 service delivery needs. Applications for flexible working overall have continued to grow, and from 1 April 2016, a total of 1,175 applications have been made to work more flexibly, with an overall 80% approval rate.

Mutual flexibility between staff and Trust Management leads to greater employee engagement and results in happier, committed staff delivering care to our service users and their families. Staff feel increased job satisfaction as their work-life balance needs are met by the Trust.

How has Employers For Childcare helped your organisation?

The Belfast Trust recognises that the provision of Improving Working Lives initiatives can enable staff to balance work and home commitments. One such initiative is the provision of Childcare Vouchers which offers savings to working parents who use registered childcare. Employers For Childcare have been an invaluable source of information and advice to us in Human Resources in relation to the numerous questions we receive from staff regarding Childcare Vouchers. In addition, they help us as an employer to promote the benefits of Childcare Vouchers through information stands and leaflets. Following the introduction of Tax-Free Childcare, Employers For Childcare facilitated a series of roadshow type events across our Trust sites which provided information for our staff to help them decide if Tax-Free Childcare or the Childcare Voucher scheme is more beneficial.

Why did you decide to apply for the Awards?

As an employer working in partnership with Employers For Childcare, we felt it was important to enter and showcase the work we do within the Trust in terms of the innovation, creative thinking, ethos and culture that is central to improving the working lives of our staff. In BHSCT we aim to be one of the top 20% of UK NHS Trusts for quality, improvement and safety, and for the empathy with which care is delivered by 2020. In a bid to attract, recruit and retain the top talent in health and social care, we aim to offer a working environment that sets us apart from other organisations as an Employer of Choice.

What did it mean to you winning this award?

The Trust won the Employers For Childcare Family Friendly Awards for Public Sector Employer of the Year and Overall Winner in 2016, and Highly Commended in 2017. This built on our success as the winner of the Public Sector Category at the inaugural Childcare Works Awards in association with Employers For Childcare in 2008.  We actively market our status as an Employer of Choice that promotes health and well being in addition to supporting working families. Winning this award has been a fantastic accolade that is greatly appreciated by the Trust.

Winning these awards was fantastic kudos for BHSCT and gave our HR Improving Working Lives team the recognition that not only are they doing a good job but they are also leading the Trust to be recognised externally as an organisation that can inspire others to promote, develop and implement working practices that support working families and enhance working lives.

We want to be recognised as a world class leader in health and social care – our innovative and pioneering health care approaches are widely documented. Our Quality Improvement Strategy places engagement with our people at its heart – collective leadership enables all staff at all levels to play their role in shaping and leading the Trust and assists us in building our brand as Employer of Choice. Put simply, winning this award sets us apart. We are building on the success by, for example, using the logos on our BHSCT website in the ‘Working For Us’ section to enable us to attract, recruit and retain staff based on our brand of excellence. Within the Trust, we feel that Belfast Health & Social Care Trust is a great place to work – our staff are our greatest asset and winning this award has endorsed that.

What did you enjoy the most about the Awards Ceremony?

The event was held in Galgorm, a beautiful and prestigious setting. Our Improving Working Lives Team members attended and thoroughly enjoyed the event which we believe was a fantastic recognition of all their hard work “behind the scenes” in supporting the Trust each year as an Employer of Choice that embraces Family Friendly policies. These hard-working, committed colleagues felt the ceremony was a fitting tribute to our various projects to date. It was also exciting to attend as a winner and support our Director of HR who presented on the day. Oh, and the food wasn’t too bad either!

What do you hope to achieve in the future regarding family friendly policies?

At BHSCT we are always planning for our future and we have a few exciting new initiatives that are currently underway which will enhance the working lives of our 22,000 workforce and that of their families and thus, we believe, will enhance the level of care and service that we provide to our patients.

The Trust has developed a draft Childcare Strategy and 5 year action plan to achieve key results, maintain our status as Employer of Choice, demonstrate how we value our employees, and increase childcare choices for employees. We recognise that childcare is an issue that is not just related to female colleagues and is not simply about parents of children under five. Increasingly grandparents and other family members play a significant role in assisting with childcare needs.

It therefore makes good business sense to develop a Strategy and Action Plan that is intuitive to the needs of our workforce and holistically meets the childcare needs of all staff. We again are proud to be forerunners for this initiative which further enhances our brand as Employer of Choice and we envision continuing to work in partnership with Employers For Childcare to utilise their expertise in this area.

Our aging population impacts on our workforce and often as adults we have multiple caring responsibilities as parent, grandparent and caring for children and other adults. It is not uncommon to have both childcare and other caring responsibilities as an employee. We are developing a framework that supports staff as carers and have introduced a carers forum and an information resource designed to support staff as carers. We provide practical support such as time off and guidance through what can be a myriad of areas including advice on benefits, care packages and other sources of assistance within the Trust and wider community support networks.

We continue to promote a culture of health and well being as a priority for our diverse workforce and to support our five corporate objectives. Our strapline is “b well U Matter”.

BHSCT has developed the pioneering, innovative, and award-winning b well app and website which is aimed at promoting health and well being of employees and their friends and families and is available to download and access for free. We recognise that working in a health and social care environment, whilst often rewarding, can frequently be challenging physically, mentally and emotionally. We understand that our people spend a significant proportion of their time at work, and increasingly many will want to work longer both out of choice and as a result of pension scheme changes. Engaging with our staff about their health and well being, supporting and caring for them and working better together is a significant priority in the Trust and its impact on the lives and health and well-being of the people who live in Belfast and beyond is profound.