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Published: 26 Jun 2024

Microsoft UK – Finalist 2024, Best Family Network, sponsored by BlckBx

Everyone is part of a family of some sort and life events happen to us all. We believe that we should support our teams to ensure they can do their best work by being a flexible and family friendly employer. 

Peer support 

Microsoft’s network encompasses several sub-groups including parents, Returnity, maternity & early years, Carers, Fertility, Intersectionality and Communications. There is an openness and motivation to creating new communities that reflect the employee experience, such as newly formed single parent group and a 50+ parents group.  

Peer support is offered in varying ways – through virtual monthly meet-ups provide safe spaces for mutual support, a bump club for expectant parents, the creation of Returnity mentor pairings to help mothers returning to work, and online chats for each community. Events are held on specific topics, and networks join forces to make a bigger impact and galvanise support for significant moments such as International Women’s Day or Black History Month. Surpassing 1000 members this year, 250 engaged with April Families Month events including the sleep fairy, careers advice for teens, and the first Bring Your Child to Work day. Communities also get involved in charity work, with the Dad’s community raising £1000 via a charity walk for Papyrus, a suicide prevention charity. 

Family-friendly working 

The network builds awareness of resources and support available and is promoted actively in a variety of ways including team meetings, LinkedIn, events and videos, which optimise current topics or awareness events such as Fertility Week to bring it to the attention of staff. Every member’s impact is recognised in the annual review process and will contribute to reward grading. Volunteers who run the network are praised through the digital company pinboard and Teams, and quarterly updates. 

The network supports the family-friendly culture by promoting flexible working practices and leveraging concepts such as Elliot Rae’s parenting out loud to promote putting family commitments into diaries, creating team agreements to support work-life balance and sharing best practice. Members drive allyship within their teams by being role models, coaching others and sharing their stories in meetings and community calls. Manager training is a key aim of the network, to ensure confidence and consistency of approach when managing life moments that impact employee experience.  

A force for change 

The network works in partnership with HR to develop policy and make positive change, acting as the voice for the needs of different communities represented, for example updating manager guidance on best practice when managing the maternity journey and time away for IVF treatment. Regular meeting with HR stakeholders helps align progress and they have created ‘One List’ of things to act on together. Currently work is being done around maternity cover and parental leave, with a view to improving policy.