We’ve talked about flexible working before, and showed the options that are available in the marketplace, however it is sometimes difficult to find companies actually leading the way in creating flexible working for parents.

I thought it would be useful to give you a couple of case studies I have read from organisations in the UK who are forging ahead with flexible working arrangements.

Vodafone has put in place a global maternity policy.

The head of reward and policy at Vodafone, Alissa Davis, returned from maternity leave wanting to come back on reduced hours. Under their new policy she has been able to do 80% of her hours, in her case, a four day week and get full pay for the first six months.

At the end of the six months, she is then able to decide whether she wants to continue, or go back full time. She explains, “When I was thinking of returning I wasn’t sure what hours would work for me, I am able now to try four days a week without any financial impact and see how it fits with my life, or I could decide I want to go back full time. At the moment having a three day weekend is making a massive difference to my family.”

If she opts for full time after six months, she is still able to work flexibly as Vodafone have a lot of processes in place to make this happen. All staff have laptops and outside of retail and customer services, core hours are between 10am and 3pm, so other hours can be worked flexibly as long as work targets are being hit.

Even in retail and customer services, there is room for manoeuvre as they introduced self managed teams who can create their own rotas. And they organised roadshows encouraging flexible working.

Alissa’s team deal with employee relations and they have done some work with maternity returners to look at how to simplify processes such as employee benefits packages that can have Mum’s paying out in their first pay packet when they return to work, which is something that they want to change.

Cafcass are using technology to help their staff with their flexible working requirements.

The Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service or Cafcass has been making huge changes in the last few years with the use of technology and working culture changes in order to improve their business and their staff and service users satisfaction.

Marked ‘inadequate’ by Ofsted in 2010 with a ‘fundamental weakness in its culture and management’ Darly Maitland, the senior HR Manager explained that the business needed to change urgently with a major overhaul of flexible working patterns and to bring in a smarter way of working.

Come back to the present and it has just been shortlisted for the Working Families awards for its exemplary work on these points and has had an ‘outstanding’ rating from Ofsted who were particularly impressed with their processes in place for health and wellbeing and flexible working for staff.

A huge amount of work was involved and initially staff who had been working from home for long periods of time, were drafted back into the office to regain the organisations expectations and culture. Face to face meetings with management were introduced every six weeks which has now reduced to once a quarter, and team meetings are now taking place once a month in the office.

As performance improved, new processes were put in place for the use of new technology. Investment was made to give all social workers laptops and tablets along with smart phones, which they have a choice of. Other software is being introduced to enable shared information and working out how long specific cases could take to complete. Maitland adds, “Managers can now have a sense of control and understanding of staff workloads without the need to see them in the office each day.”

With the use of video and telephone conferencing, social workers can reduce the amount of travel they have to do, and with the use of tablets, they can gain the trust of the troubled youngsters that they have to meet, breaking down the barriers with interactive programmes to give social workers the ability to get a more rounded case for them more quickly and with less red tape. The young people they work with can also text them at any time.

Apps have also been introduced so employees can book holiday, or claim expenses and get a quick response from their manager. It also helps use dead time when waiting to go into court as emails can be read or admin work can be done, saving time afterwards which puts them in more control of their workload and allows them to take time out of their day to do the school run.

It has also helped the company when budgets are reduced, they haven’t had to get rid of staff as the technology and flexible working has saved the money for them in the long term.

Maitland concludes, “It’s all about where staff work, how they work and when they work. It allows people more autonomy and that increases their sense of well being.