LADbible Group’s FLEXIBLE, FAMILY-FRIENDLY future

Words by Sophie Parrott

LADbible Group’s FLEXIBLE, FAMILY-FRIENDLY future

Words by Sophie Parrott

Words by Sophie Parrott

Earlier this year, LADbible Group announced a suite of family-friendly policies aimed at supporting the firm’s global workforce. We find out more about how this ‘LADfamily’ policy works...

For many employers, coronavirus catalysed greater flexibility in their working structures, forcing a large number to consider how big a challenge balancing work and life can be for many employees. Many have started thinking about unravelling typical work structures as a result, which is just what workers want. In fact, data from EY’s 2021 Work Reimagined Employee Survey, found that more than half (54%) of employees would quit their job post-pandemic if they were not given some form of flexibility over where and when they work. Separately, a 2021 report from McKinsey discovered that work-life balance and flexibility are at the front of employees’ minds when thinking about the future of work.

360

employees

30%

increase in headcount in the last year

Offices in:

England, Ireland, New Zealand and Australia

Of course, this makes sense. The pandemic sparked many employees into reassessing their personal lives. According to a survey of 1,300 employees, Bright Horizons found that almost half (48%) of employees now view family life as a higher priority than before the coronavirus crisis. Indeed, Justin EH Smith, a Professor of History and Philosophy at the University of Paris, told The Guardian that disruption and isolation have a way of encouraging us to electively re-evaluate our lives.

This re-evaluation was seemingly never so stark for working parents. The subject of much media attention over the last year – as they balanced their professional lives with home-schooling – a deeper understanding of the challenges of what working parents are dealing with has seemingly come out the other side of the peak of the COVID-19 crisis as well as a renewed appreciation for other elements of life outside of the professional sphere.

Felicity Rothwell,

HR Director

...it felt like now is the right time to launch what we are considering phase two of the family-friendly policies...

The ‘LADfamily’ approach

One employer seemingly taking the lead with support for working parents, and those wanting to start a family, is the news and entertainment publisher LADbible Group. The Manchester-headquartered firm - which has the LADbible, Tyla and UNILAD brands, among others, in its portfolio - recently announced a suite of family-friendly policies for its 360-strong global workforce. The new policies, branded under umbrella moniker of ‘LADfamily’, consist of fully paid leave for pregnancy loss, fertility treatment, and a new workplace nursery benefit, allowing staff to recover tax savings on childcare costs in their local area.

Not reactive but strategic

'LADfamily' wasn’t a mere reaction to pandemic changes, though. LADbible Group were already thinking about improving family-friendly policies before COVID-19 hit. In fact, Felicity Rothwell, HR Director at LADbible Group tells myGrapevine magazine that in 2020, the organisation rolled out enhanced maternity, paternity and adoption leave as part of the first stage of strengthening their family-friendly policies. “So [‘LADfamily’] just felt like stage two,” she adds.

In fact, Rothwell explains that 2021 felt like the right time to roll out ‘LADfamily’ because the business found itself in a fortunate position of rapid growth - both in terms of headcount (70 new colleagues have been hired this year) and international presence (offices have been opened in Ireland, Australia and New Zealand). “There was always intended to be a next stage and because of that growth, it felt like now is the right time to launch what we are considering phase two of the family-friendly policies,” LADbible Group’s HR lead added.

Keeping it in the ‘LADfamily’

So, what does the ‘LADfamily’ initiative do? According to Rothwell, the first of the three prongs, paid leave for fertility treatment, is there to give employees time to receive and recover from this treatment, adding that it doesn’t just have to be for the person undertaking the treatment themselves as it also applies to employees who are partners too. “That’s five days paid leave per cycle for up to three cycles,” she adds.

Also under the umbrella of ‘LADfamily’ is the firm’s pregnancy loss policy. Within this, employees are offered a minimum of ten days paid leave if they suffer from a pregnancy loss - regardless of the reason for that loss. “Again, that applies to partners so we want to recognise that it also impacts people who are the partner of people who have suffered a loss,” Rothwell adds.

The workplace nursery benefit is the third aspect within the ‘LADfamily’ policy, which applies to any employee who is putting their child through early years education. “They will get tax and National Insurance (NI) savings so it’s effectively like a salary sacrifice scheme. It’s open to everybody, we’ve communicated it to everybody [and] it has been super well received. [When] employees want to or need to use it, they just approach their team leader, manager or HR team,” Rothwell adds.

Family-friendly policies & the HR agenda

By offering flexible, family-friendly policies like this, LADbible Group are opening themselves up to the benefits that these programmes can bring. They’re not the only organisation leaning into this. 2021 has seen several employers, including Channel 4, Monzo and Modibodi, roll out policies of a similar nature. Rothwell explains this is because there’s increasing time spent on diversity, adding “I think it's a focus around diversity, I think more businesses are focussing around female leaders [and] women in business”.

LADbible Group’s HRD also explains that by offering these policies, it's a recognition that people have a life outside of work. “Businesses are starting to catch onto that work-life balance and the importance of it and people wanting families,” Rothwell adds. “To attract and retain the best people, you need to make them feel valued and you need to recognise that they have personal lives, and personal ambitions as well as work ambitions.”

Businesses are starting to catch onto that work-life balance...

LADbible Group was founded in 2012 by Alexander ‘Solly’ Solomou & Arian Kalantari while at the University of Leeds

The Group began with one Facebook page called LADbible and the first post published reached more than 75,000 interactions.

Nine core brands: LADbible, UNILAD, Tyla, GAMINGbible, SPORTbible, UNILAD Tech, UNILAD Adventure, ODDSbible and UNILAD sound.

Across the nine core brands, the group’s content has over three billion views on social media per month*

Embracing difficulty

Aside from some of the more tangible benefits, LADbible Group's HR lead says that a lot of the programme was kickstarted to help with commonplace difficulties that surround starting a family. Many of these might be surprising to many of us. For example, the Miscarriage Association estimated that one in five pregnancies ends in miscarriage - which is estimated to be around a quarter of a million in the UK each year. Separate data on the NHS website has suggested that around one in seven couples have difficulty conceiving, which is likely to impact employees in every workplace. Rothwell adds that the schemes were put in place to help with this.

“A large part of [the programmes we have] are acknowledging [the challenges], being forward-thinking and putting in place processes which are over and above what most people are doing to recognise that. It feels like something that is really important and should be recognised, pregnancy loss and fertility treatment is definitely a challenge,” she explains.

Rothwell adds: “It still feels taboo and a lot of feedback that we get from those conversations is that there is still a sense that it is taboo to talk about and so a huge part of it for us was coming out there and saying ‘we support you, we recognise this and opening up the conversation’. Since we have done this, we have had so many great conversations with people who are so happy to see that we have recognised it as a business but also encourage people to say to us ‘this has happened to me’ and people haven’t had that conversation with us before.”

The business case for flexible & family-friendly policies

When rolling out anything new, employers and HR will want to know the business benefits of offering family-friendly policies.

Jennifer Liston-Smith, Head of Thought Leadership at Bright Horizons, said that family-friendly organisations can “reap the rewards when it comes to engagement with their employees”.

She adds: “Having tangible solutions in place to help with work and life challenges for employees is something that has boosted wellbeing and loyalty during recent extreme times and which smart employers will continue to provide, given the engagement premium.”

Liston-Smith’s thinking dovetails with a 2020 study by researchers at Utah Women & Leadership Project (UWLP) which found that flexibility and family-friendly policies in the workplace increase staff productivity, engagement and overall satisfaction.

With Bain & Company data - as was reported by Customer Think - finding that, on the whole, engaged employees are 44% more productive than their satisfied peers, the business case for offering family-friendly policies could be a no-brainer.

Flexibility & the future of publishing

Focussing on families, working parents and would-be parents within the ‘LADfamily’ initiative is just one example of how the firm is flexing to the needs of its staff. In fact, at the time of the interview, LADbible was in the middle of launching its blended working policy - an approach that will combine the benefits of office and remote working. “Our blended working is effectively allowing our departments in collaboration with employees to decide how best home working and office working will work. What you will have is departments leading that, so you might have certain departments doing slightly different things to other departments, in collaboration with their team members,” Rothwell explains.

Given that the organisation isn’t making a full return to the office, Rothwelll says it will allow flexibility among the team and will also give staff and their managers the autonomy to make a decision that best suits them. With data from Ezra finding that three-quarters of UK office workers don’t want to return to the office full time once pandemic restrictions mostly subside, having this flexibility will likely be welcome news to staff. “...I think it’s really important that we continue to offer that flexibility,” Rothwell adds.

...employees [can] decide how best home working and office working will work...

LADfuture

It’s clear that the Manchester-headquartered firm’s ‘LADfamily’ policy is actively responding to greater calls for flexibility as a result of the pandemic, even if they had plans to help workers before COVID-19 hit. Their plans appear to give staff greater flexibility to balance work and personal life, particularly when it comes to starting a family.

With data from Bright Horizons finding that 48% see family life as a higher priority than before the pandemic, existing and prospective talent will likely be looking for support from employers that reflects this. “We know our team will feel the value of these new policies, but we also believe it will help us attract top talent from all backgrounds, ethnicities and genders and at all levels because LADbible Group puts our employees at the centre of everything we do,” Sinead Allchurch, LADbible’s London-based HR Director said in a previous interview.

*FACEBOOK, YOUTUBE & TWITTER, January 2021