AMV BBDO launches ‘Life Changes’ benefit scheme for all London staff

The groundbreaking scheme embraces the opportunity presented by the once in a generation opportunity to reshape the workplace for the better.

Nicola Kemp

Editorial Director Creativebrief


In the wake of the cost of living crisis and the Coronavirus pandemic, the relationship between employers and employees has fundamentally shifted. From the ‘great resignation’ to a growing number of data points pointing to a workforce in a state of overwhelm, the opportunity to do things differently is so much more than a ‘nice to have’.

When it comes to seizing the moment to embrace an inclusive future of work, in some parts of the industry 2022 may go down as a year of missed opportunities. Yet this chance at progress has been grasped by progressive agencies seeking to attract and retain the best talent.  

Holding onto the gains made in flexible working in the pandemic is just one element on a ground-breaking new company-wide benefits scheme from AMV BBDO, which is designed to help staff navigate the different life changes they go through during their employment. 

The agency explains that the wide-ranging ‘Life Changes’ programme is part of a new employee value proposition that looks to people through the lens of individual and personal challenges in their lives outside work.

Sam Hawkey, CEO at AMV BBDO, said: “We recognised our lives had fundamentally changed during the pandemic. There was a greater realisation that two people could be doing the same job but have quite different needs depending on how things were changing in their lives. 

A future of work that works for everyone

The comprehensive scheme includes a UK first, in which staff will be given a host of innovative benefits such as financial support towards egg freezing or fertility treatment, subsidy for transgender staff towards transition costs, paid-for relationship break up and divorce counselling, paid “pawternity leave” to settle in new pets, and £500 a month per child for childcare for one year.

The financial benefits come as the industry continues to grapple with the cost of living crisis. A pressure underlined by industry charity NABS’ move to offer cost of living grants. The scheme generated such unprecedented demand that the charity has had to close applications. It revealed that it received one and a half times as many enquiries for the Cost of Living Grant in 36 hours than its other financial support grants have received so far this year. 

The rising cost of living has been particularly acute in the childcare sector. Research from Pregnant Then Screwed revealed that in 2022 43% of mums said that the cost of childcare has made them consider leaving their job and 40% said they have had to work fewer hours than they would like because of childcare costs. One in four (25%) parents say that they have had to cut down on necessary expenses such as food, heating or clothing to afford childcare.

We recognised our lives had fundamentally changed during the pandemic. There was a greater realisation that two people could be doing the same job but have quite different needs depending on how things were changing in their lives.

Sam Hawkey, CEO at AMV BBDO

To help navigate this career crunch, people going on maternity leave, shared parental leave and adoption leave will all receive 100% pay for up to six months. New pet owners will also receive one week paid ‘pawternity’ leave, plus a further two weeks working remotely to settle in furry friends.

Sam Hawkey, CEO of AMV BBDO, added: “We recognised through conversation and feedback that, for us to build culture and to continue to excel creatively, we need individuals to be the best versions of themselves at work. So, we identified the types of benefits and services that would support staff to navigate all the curve balls and obstacles they might encounter outside of the office”.

Supporting the career squiggle

The support programme is divided into four key areas: Freedom, Nurture, Transform and Safety. Under the ‘Freedom’ set of benefits, agency staff can now work remotely for up to eight weeks a year, whether it’s because they are originally from overseas, or because they’d like a change of scenery. Staff who have worked for AMV BBDO for five years or more will be rewarded for their loyalty with five weeks paid leave a year, plus the opportunity to take a paid sabbatical for every five years of service. 

In addition, all employees can take up to 18 months unpaid leave to pursue whatever dreams they have outside of work, whether that’s to travel, study or set up a business. It’s hoped the additional skills and experiences acquired will enhance AMV BBDO’s company culture and business.  

People will also take up to two months paid leave for mental health issues or medical problems, with costs for most mental health management covered by BUPA. In severe cases, AMV BBDO will cover all costs. The move comes at a unique period of our working lives; one in which stress and burnout are on the rise. 

According to Deloitte’s [email protected] Report 2022, 46% of women say their stress levels are higher than they were a year ago and 46% of women feel burned out. The result is what McKinsey and Lean In have described as ‘The Great BreakUp’ where women are leaving their roles in record numbers. While less enlightened industry leaders have pointed to the looming recession as a likely full stop to the ‘great resignations’, progressive leaders are looking to build creative, compassionate frameworks that enable people not to stay put, but create the best work of their lives. 

Nurturing for growth

In the wake of a pandemic in which employees' emotions are closer to the surface than ever, the scheme includes a comprehensive set of policies designed to ‘nurture’. Anyone caring for pets, children, teenagers, the elderly, the disabled, the neurodiverse or those with chronic medical conditions will be given access to the likes of parenting coaching, wellbeing training, mental health practitioners, GP services and elder care advice.

While people going through relationship breakdowns and divorce will be provided with paid-for specialist counselling and guidance and those going through the perimenopause or menopause will get paid-for menopause advice from medically trained specialists. Meanwhile, those trying to conceive are being offered fertility counselling and time off for IVF treatment, miscarriage, adoption, and surrogacy. Staff are being offered a £2,000 subsidy towards fertility treatment such as IVF and egg freezing.

Transgender staff are also being offered counselling, training, and a £2,000 subsidy towards transitioning.

It is AMV BBDO’s strongly held belief that setting up a side hustle encourages innovation and creative thinking, as well as improving and increasing business skills, which is all beneficial to its business and company culture.

Life Changes Employee Policy

The end of being ‘sidetracked by the side hustle’

Notably in the midst of an outdated industry narrative which has historically complained creative talent could be ‘side tracked by their side hustles’ AMV is seeking to capitalise on the creative energy generated by having the space and support to make and do the things you love. 

The agency is offering free advice on setting up a business. The policy explains: “It is AMV BBDO’s strongly held belief that setting up a side hustle encourages innovation and creative thinking, as well as improving and increasing business skills, which is all beneficial to its business and company culture.” 

This enlightened approach reflects the growing desire for more control over their careers from creatives. A trend which has been identified across industries, most notably by Sarah Ellis and Helen Tupper, authors of The Squiggly Career. Progressive companies are increasingly recognizing that to attract and retain the best talent they need to allow the space for ‘squiggle’ or side hustle. 

Financial support and safety

The agency’s commitment to ‘safety’ is rooted in financial support. Entry-level staff are being offered a £5,000 interest-free loan when they move to London to take up their new role, all staff are being offered responsible advances on their salary to cover emergencies or flexibility in when they get paid and in what frequency, and all staff can access free financial literacy workshops and advice, as well as free mortgage and equity advice and advice around the legal and financial elements of divorce and separation.

“In time, we will see a natural improvement in retention, greater levels of staff satisfaction and higher levels of wellbeing, but we will of course reach out to staff to obtain their thoughts on how the programme has benefited them,” added Hawkey.

Earlier this year AMV BBDO’s CEO Sam Hawkey set out his vision for the agency as part of the Gamechangers Interview series in partnership with The Blueprint. 

It’s easy to be cynical when it comes to the growing rhetoric surrounding ‘bringing your whole self to work’. But as Hawkey explains: “I spent a bit of time in my career sort of pretending to be something,” says Hawkey, sharing the way in which the industry can make you try and be a certain way. "It matters to me - when you start having kids, I have a son and a daughter - what you really want them to do is be themselves every day. I think as an industry we don’t teach that that well, we teach you to be a certain way,” he adds. 

These landmark policies not only raise the bar when it comes to building an inclusive workplace, but put in the practical and financial support to enable employees not only to bring their whole selves to work, but run their own race. At a time when across the industry talent continues to vote with their feet.

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