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Q&A with Superdrug: How can employers support parents and carers during COVID-19?

Published: 22 Apr 2020

We sat down virtually with Jo Mackie, Customer and People Director at Superdrug—a Working Families employer member—to learn how they are supporting parents and carers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Can you tell us how Superdrug is supporting parents during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Very early in the lockdown, we introduced paid leave for any employee not able to work due to childcare challenges or living with vulnerable people, including children.  Where we have closed stores, we have furloughed our employees and are paying them 100% of their salary.

Via our comms platform and wellbeing network, we have also been sharing blogs, advice and tips, and best practice for working at home with children, talking to children about COVID-19, entertaining your children, staying active, etc. All of this can be accessed from home so our teams can continue to feel connected whether they are in work or not.

Over Easter we launched a fun Easter art competition for the children of our employees and the entries have been pouring in. Over the coming weeks, we will be coming up with more fun initiatives like this to lend parents as much support as possible—next up is our sunflower growing initiative.

What drove the decision to pay parents in full if they are unable to work due to childcare responsibilities?

Many of our employees are parents and carers of young children and our guiding principle throughout this was that we did not want our employees to be financially worse off for not being able to work. The current situation is very stressful for our employees and we were keen to help remove as much worry as we could.

How has Superdrug’s flexible/family-friendly culture informed your response to the pandemic?

I think for our Head Office team, it’s highlighted how easy it is to work from home and how dedicated our employees are to continuing to provide a great service to our stores and distribution teams.

Like other businesses I am sure, we have embraced the fact that children and families are at home, too, and that they also need time and support. It feels like we are making that work pretty well. We know that the usual 9-5 doesn’t apply in this situation and we’re comfortable letting our teams find ways of working that suit them, their families, and the business.

In my team, we’ve had children—and the odd husband/ wife/ partner—joining in on video meetings and calls and it’s been really nice to see amongst all the chaos!

In our stores and distribution centres we have asked managers to have different flexible working conversations with those parents still working as we know that hours, times, etc. might have had to flex and change, and we are doing what we can to accommodate this. If an employee used to work 20 hours and can now only do 8 because of childcare, then we will do our best to make that work.

What advice would you give to other companies to better support the parents and carers in their workforce during this challenging time (and in general)?

  • Communicate, communicate, communicate. We have been providing daily updates in the hope that our messages are reaching every one of our 16,000 employees across the UK. We’ve also had dedicated People Advice teams working 7 days a week to ensure any questions and concerns are answered as swiftly as possible.
  • Keep in contact with employees not in the business. This can be via intranet platforms and business comms, but we also encourage managers to check in with their teams every few weeks.
  • As well as financial support, offer support with wellbeing, parenting, and tips for how best to work at home for those who haven’t worked in this way before.
  • Finally, and most importantly, accept that these are not normal times and that even more flexibility is required. What you give to your employees in support and trust, you will get back in loyalty and commitment.

Employers – a Working Families membership will give you the tools, guides and policies you need to implement flexible and family-friendly business practices. We also offer coaching and business support. Our online shop sells a range of resources to help employers of all sizes – from all sectors – attract and retain the best talent by creating flexible, family-friendly workplaces.

Have you downloaded your FREE guide to managing home/remote workers?

For more information about your flexible working rights as a parent/carer, call the Working Families helpline on 0300 012 0312 or use our advice contact form.

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