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Saatchi & Saatchi sets out to revolutionise the industry for working parents

Saatchi Family aims to support working parents and power the industry to build back better following the coronavirus crisis.

Nicola Kemp

Editorial Director

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‘Nothing is impossible’. The Saatchi & Saatchi strapline may not have applied to working parents attempting the impossible task of home-schooling young children while also holding down a demanding job. Or for parents returning from maternity leave in the midst of a global pandemic which shuttered childcare.

A recent study from the Office of National Statistics found that the responsibility of childcare and home-schooling during lockdown had predominantly fallen on women during lockdown. While data from the IPA has shown that women have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.

With this in mind Saatchi & Saatchi is launching a trailblazing initiative ‘Saatchi Family’ as part of the agency’s commitment to make the industry open to all and keep it open. The commitment aims to create a positive shift in culture for working parents in the industry. It will include investing £350,000 in a childcare fund, and a training programme to upskill line managers. The programme will launch with a focus on working parents and will expand to include additional support for all caregivers. It’s an approach which underlines the double burden faced by the generation in the workplace simultaneously caring for young children and ageing parents.

The first thing we needed to do was listen to our people.

Sam Hawkey

An honest conversation

The approach is rooted in a refreshing honesty about the realities of the pandemic and the pressures faced by working parents.

As Sam Hawkey, CEO at Saatchi & Saatchi, explains: “Saatchi & Saatchi is an agency built on the belief that ‘nothing is impossible’ but for a lot of parents, navigating the challenges of the past year has been borderline impossible."

He continues: “The first thing we needed to do was listen to our people. Then we looked at what we should be doing immediately, what proper systemic impact we could deliver with the right time and money, and then we looked at delivering the impossible.”

The Saatchi Family approach is based on tangible actions and policies which will have a real-world impact on employees’ lives. This includes miscarriage leave, fully paid leave for any parents experiencing miscarriage, at any stage during pregnancy. Saatchi & Saatchi will also provide access to support for partners and close family members.

It also includes a childcare fund for working parents with £350k investment dedicated to helping relieve childcare pressures particularly during school holidays and to bridge the gap when employees’ childcare arrangements are changing. And the initiative has a  buddy system, a support system led by employees who are comfortable discussing their experiences of IVF, adoption, surrogacy, miscarriage, single parenthood and other areas so the agency can connect individuals with the most helpful and relevant support.

Building back better

The approach aims to support parents across the span of their careers, as well as through tricky parenting milestones that have often conspired to put work and life in opposition with each other.

The agency is introducing an optional phased return for working parents, including a soft and structured approach to improve the returner experience. As well as one week’s fully paid emergency leave to cover emergency scenarios, particularly for single parents and carers.

In addition, the agency is focused on career development for working parents through a 12-month career coaching and mentoring scheme delivering access to Saatchi heads of department or senior leadership, and Publicis Groupe UK leadership.

Crucially the company has recognised how pivotal flexible working is to working parents and has committed to engineering continued flexibility for school drop off and pick up times which will be avoided for meetings. This marks an addition to the agency’s existing Saatchi Time Out policy, which ensures no meetings happen between 12.30 and 2pm, and parenting moments, like bath time, are protected.

We wanted to build something that reflects the entire parenthood journey.

Gemma Phillips

Active listening

The comprehensive approach to supporting working parents is based on a commitment to active listening. The agency plotted and mapped the entire journey for parents to identify where the gaps and biggest challenges were, looking at emotional, physical, mental and financial barriers to progression.

This was achieved through an internal survey, which found a discrepancy between how men and women feel when it comes to talking about family plans with their managers. Only 48% of women felt comfortable talking about future family plans and career options, compared to 80% of men. 

Gemma Phillips, Creative Director at Saatchi & Saatchi, explained: “We talk a lot about ‘agency built’ at Saatchi & Saatchi, insight and ideas born from the community who experience the challenges, and this is exactly how Saatchi Family has been built. We wanted to build something that reflects the entire parenthood journey, from the struggles of trying to conceive to making work, work with kids of all ages.”

She continued: “The great thing about advertising is that we don’t have a problem attracting women. More women than men join the industry in entry level positions. Then agencies often see a drop off later on. We need a shift in thinking and in the culture of our industry, so that parents, and specifically working mothers, are seen as the huge assets they are.” 

As the industry seeks to build back better in the wake of the coronavirus crisis, Saatchi Family is a compelling reminder that being a successful working parent in adland should not be an impossible pursuit.

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