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Published: 8 Jun 2022

Santander – Finalist 2022, Best Family Network

Santander’s Families and Carers Network connects anyone with caring responsibilities or those on the journey to parenthood, as well as managers and allies, offering a source of support that fosters a sense of belonging to help people succeed.    

Role of the network 

The network defines its role as threefold – creating a community that generates opportunities to bring people together and share experience, supporting employee’s careers by providing resources and information to support them achieve at work, and listening to feedback to support improvements in family-friendly policies.  

Employees can access the network through an app, which provides a place to post articles, ask questions, seek advice and offer peer support around the clock. The leadership team delivers events and communications on their chosen passion, including fostering, dementia and flexible working.  

Awareness of the network is raised through organisation-wide communications, mandatory training, and features in the employee handbook and external careers site. Real life stories and personal journeys are used to illustrate the benefits of the network and encourage employees to join. Specific groups exist for adoption, carers, fertility and baby loss, fostering and returning parents.  

Support for parents and carers 

An annual strategic plan links chosen activities to national awareness days. Their impact is maximised by linking resources from external partnerships that provide a range of practical, emotional and financial advice and support, for example Tommy’s Pregnancy & Parenting at Work scheme, Carers UK, Employers for Carers and Working Families. 

Activities are wide ranging, from supporting 500 colleagues with a free, home-schooling laptop during lockdown, to a buddy scheme for any aspect of family life including autism, breastfeeding, and dementia care. Specific initiatives exist to bring staff together such as Altogether Adoption, Let’s Talk Fertility and Carers Tea and Talk. The network highlights other sources of support around issues that can significantly impact the wellbeing of employees, including childhood mental health, domestic abuse, child disability support, menopause and perinatal mental health.  

A change-maker 

Influencing policy change is seen as an important aim of the network. The network has an executive sponsor, who has helped to highlight the work of the network by sharing her own journey of surrogacy and advocating for further support for carers. A close working relationship enables emerging trends to be escalated quickly, evidenced in the enhancement of Family Leave in 2022 by increasing fully paid Maternity Leave from 20 to 23 weeks, and fully paid Paternity Leave from four to five weeks. Future work has begun on a Carers Policy and Pregnancy and Baby Loss Policy.