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Celebrating International Women’s Day: How Five Rivers Supports Women in the Workplace

International Women’s Day (Wednesday, 8 March) is an annual global event that highlights how we, as a society, achieve equality. One of its missions is to ‘forge inclusive work cultures where women’s careers thrive, and their achievements are celebrated’. 


Through our bi-annual Employee Participation Group, we listen to our female workforce and their suggestions of ways in which Five Rivers can support them at work. As a result, over the last few years, we have introduced an Enhanced Maternity Policy, a Menopause Support Policy, a Flexible Working Request Policy and have supported colleagues’ progress to leadership roles through our Management Academy. 


Management Academy

We spoke with Sarah Cooper, who joined Five Rivers Child Care in 2012 as a Supervising Social Worker, about how she has benefited from Five Rivers Management Academy.

In 2020, Sarah put herself forward for Five Rivers’ Management Academy to help her progress within the organisation. Since embarking on the training, Sarah has been promoted to Team Manager of our Chesterfield fostering office and Interim Service Manager in the Midlands and North. 


“After a few years with Five Rivers, I became a Senior Practitioner, and that’s when I decided I wanted to continue to progress in my career. I put myself forward for the Management Academy, which is a one-year training course provided by Five Rivers to help support you in becoming a manager. I’m a big believer that if you want to do something, you have to champion yourself, which is what I did.

“As part of the course, we covered different topics and had several assignments, all of which were quite big, at around 7,000 words each. Following this, we did a presentation in Birmingham to Service Managers and Operations Managers. 


“Through doing the Management Academy, I gained confidence in myself and my abilities, and as a result, I was promoted to Team Manager. Since then, I’ve also been given a new role as Interim Service Manager. I feel supported by Five Rivers and my current line managers to keep developing and progressing. There aren’t really any barriers now to stop me from continuing to progress.”


New Enhanced Maternity Policy

Lisa Reffell is the Marketing and Communications Manager and has been with Five Rivers Child Care since 2019. Lisa was one of the first people to benefit from Five Rivers’ new maternity policy when she had her second child in March 2022.


“The new Enhanced Maternity Policy offers additional support to women with a years’ service when they first go on maternity leave, as well as on their return. Above what is offered at statutory level, Five Rivers offers an additional six weeks at 50% pay which financially provides a bigger safety cushion. I chose to take nine months’ leave, but for some women, it isn’t possible to take that long, meaning this additional pay makes it possible for them to stay at home with their little one for a further six weeks. 


“Upon returning to work, the enhanced provisions allow you to work part-time hours for up to 12 weeks but still receive your previous salary. This is a huge benefit to women and families that are going through a period of big adjustment. At nine months, a whopping 70-80% of babies aren’t sleeping through the night and are still adjusting to being away from their mother and being cared for by someone else, whether this is a nursery, childminder or family member. 


“When I returned to work in January this year, I had a return-to-work meeting with my line manager, who was supportive and sympathetic to my concerns. She was also supportive of me attending a webinar with key tips about returning to work and reminded me to be kind to myself during this time.


“Returning to work part-time during these 12 weeks has not only helped me readjust back into working life but has also helped my new baby and family settle into our new routine whilst not impacting us financially.”


Menopause Support Policy 

Five Rivers introduced a Menopause Support Policy 18 months ago. The aim of the policy is to help raise awareness and understanding of menopausal symptoms and encourage employees to discuss their own situation. Some menopause symptoms can be very debilitating and have a significant impact on everyday activities. With this policy, we hope to break down barriers to discussing menopause and ensure that women who are struggling with symptoms feel supported by the organisation and their colleagues. 


Flexible Working Request Policy

If a colleague requires flexible working, we have a policy in place that allows them to put in a request to work hours/dates that help them with their work/life balance. Each request is considered, and Five Rivers aims to be as accommodating as possible. In the last 12 months, we have received 48 flexible working requests, 96% of which were from women. 


BAME Group

18 months ago, we introduced an employee working group to support our BAME colleagues at Five Rivers. This group is made up of BAME individuals from across the organisation who want to ensure and promote diversity and inclusion in the workplace and have support from and a direct line to the Head of HR and the Senior Leadership Team. This group gives women of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic backgrounds a safe space to support each other during work time.


These policies and incentives have developed from feedback received from employees within Five Rivers. We strive to consistently update and review these offerings in order to stay relevant to the needs of women within the workplace and the ever-changing environments which in which we work.

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