2021 Top Employer Award Winners Announced

Our flagship brand, workingmums.co.uk has announced the winners of its 2021 Top Employer Awards, celebrating how employers have responded to the huge challenge of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Online Awards Ceremony Zoom call


The workingmums.co.uk Top Employer Awards are now in their 11th year but this year looked very different due to the Covid-19 pandemic. For the first time ever they were presented at an online ceremony – on 26th January – and were also adapted to reflect the extraordinary events of the last year and to focus on ways in which employers have adapted and responded.

The categories in this year’s awards, which were sponsored by MTR Elizabeth Line, included: Best for Mental Health, Best for Line Manager Support, Best for Flexible Working, Best for Family Support, Best for Employee Engagement and Best for Diversity and Inclusion.

Let’s take a look at this year’s winners.

Best for Line Manager Support, sponsored by Standard Chartered Bank

This award was for employers who demonstrated initiatives aimed at supporting and equipping line managers to deal with these unprecedented times. Shortlisted were Maritime and Coastguard Agency and UBS, with UBS scooping the award.

The judges felt UBS offered a broad range of support for line managers covering flexible working, diversity and inclusion and the all important mental well being of staff. They offered toolkits as well as webinars and training. For example a line manager toolkit focused on resilience, including mindfulness leadership and positivity.

Best for Mental Health, sponsored by Kearney.

The Best for mental health award, sponsored by Kearney celebrates employers who have been exemplary in the way they have sought to protect their employees mental health during the coronavirus pandemic. Shortlisted in this category were WHSmith, SMS Plc, Sky Betting & Gaming, Pitney Bowes, Independent Living Fund Scotland, McDonald’s Restaurants Ltd, Fidelity International, Capgemini UK and Capco.

McDonald’s Restaurants Ltd won the award, as they impressed the judges with the broad and inclusive range of support they offered in such a challenging environment for retail, and the way in which the company went out of its way to support staff and franchisees and to make sure they felt safe.

The judges also highly commended Capco in this category for its long-standing, holistic focus on mental health and employee empowerment.

Best for Flexible Working

This category rewards employers who show the ways in which they have used flexible working to respond to the challenges created by the pandemic, how an existing flexible culture has helped them respond to the crisis and/or any long-term impact on their working practices. Shortlisted were UBS, Sky Betting & Gaming, Sensée, Pitney Bowes and PwC, with PwC winning the award.

The judges were really impressed by the way PwC had introduced a time off for dependents time code to recognise that parents, in particular, were balancing parenting and work during lockdown. They were also impressed by PwC’s innovative “Virtual Park” to support remote onboarding, and their ongoing commitment to flexibility.

Best for Family Support, sponsored by McDonald’s Restaurants Ltd

This award is for employers who demonstrate initiatives aimed at helping parents and carers at work during and following lockdown. Shortlisted in this category were the following: Teach First, PwC, Independent Living Fund Scotland and Atos IT Services Ltd

Teach First won the award in this category. The judges really liked the way they openly embraced a diverse range of families as well as their broad range of policies to support them. This included premature birth policies, paid carers’ leave, compassionate leave policies and a fully flexible approach.

Best for Employee Engagement

This award is for employers who demonstrate initiatives that have promoted engagement between employer and employee. Shortlisted in the Employee Engagement category were SLR Consulting, Sky Betting & Gaming, PwC, Pitney Bowes, NSPCC, McDonald’s Restaurants Ltd, Independent Living Fund Scotland and Burns Sheehan.

Sky Betting & Gaming took the trophy. The judges were really impressed by Sky Betting & Gaming’s positive, holistic and proactive approach to employee engagement, based on their three pillars of physical and mental well being and good vibes based on positive, interactive engagement, including the way they encourage employees to give something back to the community.

Best for Diversity and Inclusion, sponsored by PwC

This award is for organisations who demonstrate actions taken to ensure equality of opportunity for all. Shortlisted for this award were Vodafone UK, UBS, Network Rail, HP Inc, IBM UK Ltd and Atos IT Services Ltd. IBM UK Ltd won.

The judges praised IBM UK Ltd’s broad focus on diversity and inclusion, including hidden disabilities and neurodiversity, the way they monitored progress and how they recognised the importance of the #MeToo movement and Black Lives Matter with their comprehensive training and support on both topics provided with the IBM Emb(race) pledge.

Overall Top Employer Award 2021

Each year, all the award winners are shortlisted to win the “Overall Top Employer Award”. This year, the winner of the coveted title was McDonald’s Restaurants Ltd. The judges felt that, in a year when hospitality has been so badly hit, McDonald’s was a very strong performer in all the categories it entered, showing experimentation with a breadth of different ways of connecting with employees and franchisees with the statistics to back up their success.

The Award judges were: Gillian Nissim, founder of WM People; Andy Lake, editor of Flexibility.co.uk; Jennifer Liston-Smith, Head of Thought Leadership at Bright Horizons Work + Family Solutions; Dave Dunbar, Head of Digital Workspace at the Department for Work and Pensions; and Clare Kelliher, Professor of Work and Organisation at Cranfield School of Management.

A spokesman from sponsor MTR Elizabeth line said: “MTR Elizabeth line has enjoyed a strong relationship with workingmums since 2015.  We are committed to opening up opportunities for under-represented groups in the community and challenging stereotypes regarding career prospects for women in the rail industry. The Top Employer Awards are a strong fit with our own values and as a sponsor, we wish to reflect the important role employers play in actively seeking ways to support their employees.”

Best practice report

Every year, the award winners along with their policies and practices are looked at in more detail for a comprehensive Best Practice Report. A copy of the Best Practice Report based on last year’s Top Employer Awards is available here. The next Best Practice Report will be out in late Spring 2021.

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