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What does Flex mean to you?

In a flexible world, everyone works differently and for different reasons, and so for this year’s National Work Life Week, we’re asking people to share – what does flexible working mean to you? 

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Published: 8 Jun 2022

Wates Group – Winner 2022, Best for All Families

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Wates is a family-owned business that has instilled a family-first culture, putting measures into action that help their employees, along with their families, thrive.  


Significant effort is made to attract the best candidate from all family circumstance. All roles are advertised with at least one flexible working option. Family leave policies are clearly visible on the website for candidates to view and virtual interviews are used to fit around caring responsibilities.  

Efforts to achieve inclusivity start at the top, with leaders attending Inclusive Leadership training, and managers invited to participate in inclusion webinars. Inclusive performance management training is offered to remove bias in assessing employee performance. 

Family-friendly policies 

The Wates approach to flexible working fits within a framework that allows managers and employee to find individualised flexible solution that work for both business and employee’s wellbeing.  

Leave entitlements are generous, with Shared Parental Leave of 26 weeks, in addition to 26 weeks Maternity/Adoption Leave, to be taken at any time during the first year. Paternity/Parent Leave has increased to eight weeks fully paid, which can be split into two blocks. Unpaid carers leave of four weeks has been made available, which is able to be taken a day at a time to respond to caring responsibilities.  

Since enhancing the policies in 2021, there has been extensive efforts to publicise the policies, with a briefing for all managers. Case studies of leave takers are published, and the Parents and Carers Network are pivotal in raising awareness and signposting to resources.  

Work culture 

Performance is assessed on ‘what’ and ‘how’, with equal weightage given to both. Bonuses have been delinked from an individual performance rating to facilitate more open and honest dialogue. Managers work with individuals and teams to review workloads and help colleagues reprioritise or reallocate tasks, if necessary, to cover absences or issues. 

Initiatives are in place to improve wellbeing. For example, every employee has a wellbeing plan which helps managers understand any stress triggers and support them accordingly. Similarly, the ‘One Simple Thing’ initiative empowers employees to ask for support to improve their work-life balance. The Parent and Carers Network is both a source of support and a way to raise awareness and shift perception of flexible working in the organisation.    

A survey of employees showed that 85% mothers and 77% fathers would recommend Wates as a great place to work. The introduction of the flexible working principles and One Simple Thing has encouraged the use of flexible patterns especially among men, with 72% of men with parenting and caring responsibilities say that they feel ‘genuinely supported if I choose to make use of our flexible working arrangements.’ 

This award was sponsored by Fastn.

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