Northeastern business groups aim to make ‘good work’ a legacy of pandemic


“At a time when many UK companies are struggling to recruit and retain talent,” Virgin Money Bank of Newcastle said this week, “it is vital to offer a comprehensive, state-of-the-art benefit package. Marlet “.

The company statement came with the launch of a new employee rewards program called A Life More Virgin, which will grant staff 30 days of annual leave, five additional “wellness days” and up to 20 weeks parental leave for mothers, fathers and those adopting children.

The generous offer came after the company surveyed expectant parents and found that 60% of working parents would change jobs for better parental leave, while one in seven (14%) has already quit their job. due to poor parental leave.

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The bank will also allow most of its staff to work anywhere in the UK, saying that ‘by taking a goal-oriented approach to the way we work we can help our colleagues achieve a work-life balance. personal life which makes them the best of themselves ”.

The Virgin Money package was revealed just two days after rival bank Atom, based just down the street in Durham, announced a four-day week, with staff receiving the same rates of pay for three hours less in the office. .

“With Covid-19 forcing a large number of people to reconsider how they want to live their lives, anything that leads to more productive, healthier and, most importantly, happier colleagues is a victory for everyone.” , said CEO Mark Mullen.

Virgin Money Jubilee House, Gosforth

Atom Bank Headquarters in Durham
Atom Bank Headquarters in Durham

Both banks hope the new working practices will improve the lives of their staff and are open to the fact that they are not acting in an entirely altruistic manner. Both companies believe the increased benefits will make staff more productive, while giving them a potential advantage in what is emerging as a real buyer’s market for jobs.

Virgin Money and Atom Bank initiatives come as the concept of ‘good work’ has become an increasingly hot topic in the business world, in part after the Covid pandemic has given people a new look on the way we work.

This week, three organizations from the North East – the region’s LEP, the North East England Chamber of Commerce and the North of Tyne Combined Authority – all weighed in on the matter.

In a report compiled with Durham University, the North East LEP said changing ways of working over the past 18 months have accelerated employers’ ability to ensure better working practices for their employees, providing a better and more meaningful work.

Drawing on more than 20 interviews with large employers conducted between January and April, the LEP report includes a set of recommendations to help businesses in the North East introduce better working practices for their employees.

Michelle Rainbow, Director of Skills at the North East Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “What is unique about this research is that it was developed in real time during the pandemic, which was a time of tremendous change for businesses.

“Almost all organizations were forced to introduce some form of flexible working, which introduced its own set of challenges for employers and employees. How do you provide a supportive and rewarding work environment when your staff are tasked with working from home by the government?

“What we found is that many companies in the North East have the principles of good work in place in the aftermath of the pandemic. The introduction of remote and hybrid working has helped employers focus on important employee issues, such as work / life balance, flexible working, health and wellness, and communication.

The LEP report was released a day after the North East England Chamber of Commerce released a ‘toolkit’ for its members, which aims to show how creating a fair business and rewarding employees is good. thing for business.

Also developed with local businesses, the Chamber guide covers areas such as flexible working, Living Wage accreditation, training and wellness.

House Speaker Lesley Moody said: “In this new normal working environment, we must seize the opportunity to use the learning and experiences of the past 18 months to help our staff achieve a better balance between professional and private life.

The concept of good work has been promoted in the North East for several years, with the North East Business Ethics Initiative in mind. Three years ago, the government released its own good work plan, in part in response to the feeling that many low-quality jobs had emerged after the 2008-2009 financial crisis.

North of Tyne Mayor Jamie Driscoll has made ‘good work’ a central part of his administration, issuing a pledge to good work that he wants businesses in the area to adhere to. Companies accredited under the program so far include a number of large employers including Sage, Learning Curve, Newcastle University and Northumbrian Water.

The North of Tyne Combined Authority’s commitment revolves around five pillars: promoting health and wellness; effective communications and representation; value and reward the workforce; demonstrate social responsibility; and develop a balanced workforce – and a report to the authority this week will update advisers on its progress.

The report describes North of Tyne’s commitment to good work as “a central part of our economic recovery plan” and says it “is accelerating, impacting thousands of employees and becoming a force for good in the region “.

Now the North Tyne Authority needs to work with the Chamber to develop “good working partnerships” and see if the principles of best working practices can be instilled in young companies in the region.

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