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Published: 21 May 2020

Royal Air Force – Winner 2020, Best for Mothers

Given the nature of the RAF’s work and the fact just 14.7% of employees are women, its retention rate for mothers a year after returning from maternity leave is impressive at 82%.  

The RAF offers mothers maternity leave including: 26 weeks at full pay; 13 weeks of Statutory Maternity Pay; and 13 weeks unpaid. Shared Parental Leave matches this offer. 

Mothers-to-be and their line managers receive advice and guidance throughout the maternity leave and return to work period. Mothers are entitled to paid time off for IVF, antenatal and pre-adoption appointments.  

Other measures that help mothers include access to physical training instructors who specialise in pre and post-natal fitness on a one-to-one or group basis. The RAF funds the instructors’ training and has obtained the right insurance, so mothers can bring their young children with them while they exercise in RAF gyms 

Mothers can apply for flexible working patterns. Mothers and primary adopters are not deployed for at least 18 months after their baby is born or adopted.  

The judges were particularly impressed by how the RAF actively seeks feedback from parents and acts on it. For example, it set up affordable childcare at some sites when RAF families said local provision was too expensive.  

In addition, last summer the RAF held a series of workshops for mothers to provide feedback on their experiences. These showed both good practices and some issues. As a result, an in-depth survey has been created to monitor mothers’ – and fathers’ – experiences of parental leave and working around their families to help the RAF see where else it can make improvements.   

The retention rate for mothers after the birth of a second child is 60%, while 60% of mothers are still with the RAF five years after their first child is born. Overall, women are serving longer with the RAF, too.