My side project: changes to family leave at Virgin Media

10 March 2021

Last summer I returned to work after giving birth to our son, Jack.  

Coming back to my day job in the midst of a pandemic has been challenging; like many parents, juggling work, calls and childcare is certainly not easy.

I’m proud to work at a company which has a good family leave policy and culture, and I knew I was in safe hands when taking time off to have Jack, and I felt supported by my colleagues across the business. However, when I came back from maternity leave in the midst of the first lockdown, it felt like a very different business.

The more returners I spoke to, the more I could see some common themes were emerging; around line manager uncertainty on what to do before family leave starts, as well as IT frustrations when returning to work. Though supportive measures were in place, I knew we could do better - especially because returning virtually while juggling childcare is an art in itself.  

Thankfully, Virgin Media’s inclusive culture enabled me to reach out and share my experience to help create meaningful change for other returners. With the business’ support behind me, I brought together some like-minded, action-oriented, recent returners to form a small group (or ‘squad’ as we like to call it), whose mission was to improve our family returner experience for the better. It has been designed with equity in mind, demonstrates team play in action, and brings to life our core purpose - building connections that really matter.

Here are the actions we’ve taken:

  • We’ve created an infographic timeline to better explain the experience someone goes on ahead of, during and after, family leave. The aim is to put all the relevant policies and links into one place, acting as a visual reminder of what to do and when.
  • We’ve built an interactive tool for line managers and returners to reconnect with each other, enabling better and consistent discussions. Evidence shows that the first 12 weeks are vital in helping to retain someone following a long absence.
  • We’ve pulled together a welcome back hamper for all family returners designed to build a connection that really matters from day one, letting our people know they’ve been missed, and are appreciated.
  • We’ve launched a new podcast called ‘Time out to find out’ created by returners for returners to help bring people up to speed on what’s been going on at Virgin Media. It’s a great way to catch-up on everything that you may have missed while you’ve been off.

None of this is rocket science but based on the feedback and LinkedIn posts so far, I am confident these changes will improve our employee engagement and sense of belonging, and support our line managers, too.

I have loved working in partnership with other people from across the business that I wouldn’t have ordinarily worked with; we’ve formed what feels like a small coalition to make our part of the world a little better.

I have once again been reminded of the importance of galvanising networks to bring people together to co-create and deliver solutions and ideas that can have a lasting and positive impact.

Katie Buchanan is Head of Sustainability at Virgin Media