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Published: 26 Jun 2024

Royal Air Force – Winner 2024, Best for Mothers

The Royal Air Force (RAF) recognises the unique and extensive skills in their workforce and sees it’s people as essential to their continued success. To help mothers thrive, the RAF are working holistically to create an environment where all women have the ability and choice to return to work through measures that make people feel valued and their families supported.  

Progressive policies 

Once completing a year’s service, mothers intending on returning to work are eligible for a significantly enhanced 26 weeks maternity leave at full pay. An option to transfer leave between partners or individuals who share parental responsibility and are employed within the RAF means a woman could be on full pay for up to 12 months. Shared Parental Leave, Statutory and Shared Parental Pay is available to all parents equally. Line manager training and completion of the line managers check sheet is mandatory once a woman has informed her Line Manager that she is pregnant. 

Easing the return to work 

Mothers can work part-time as they transition back after maternity leave and can choose from one of the formal or informal flexible working options to support their return to work. Managed Career Intermissions from 6 months to 3 years can be requested. The demands of the job are recognised and so appropriate physical or mental health support including a graduated return to fitness classes and support through counselling is available. Breastfeeding rooms are provided, and a breastfeeding plan put in place.  

Comprehensive support 

Support starts from the day a mother discloses she is either on a parenting pathway or is pregnant. A parent support pack helps mothers and line managers understand entitlements and points of contact, and signposts to a wide range of on-site support services. To assist with the transition to motherhood, a coaching programme, delivered by an external providers are available to support women throughout, and a highly active parents network provides peer-to-peer support. 

The RAF recognise the impact of high childcare costs and so provides 20 hours of free wrap-around term-time childcare per week for children aged 4-11 years old. Subsidised housing is allocated according to the needs of the family and there is flexibility on the choice of location at their units, subject to availability.  In addition, there is support for those families wishing to get on the housing market and create more stability, with an interest-free loan of up to £25,000, through the Forces Help To Buy scheme 

The measure of success 

Retention rates remain high for mothers returning to work after their first child, varying from 86% to 90% over the past five years. There has been a 79% increase in the use of formal flexible working arrangements which, coupled with the ability to work flexibly on an informal basis, enables mothers to find a working solution that fits their family dynamics. Community support teams have responded to 13,000 queries in the past year, as well as 4,600 from family members, indicating the holistic nature of the support provided.