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‘We judge quality of work,’ says AHMM's Susan Le Good

AHMM director Susan Le Good, who was on the panel at the AJ’s Back to Work seminar, explains why flexible working is on the rise

What is AHMM’s approach to mums returning to work?

We make it work for the individuals and for the practice because there has to be a balance of the work/project pressures against time available. Also each individual has different requirements, which we try to accommodate. Typically mothers will return part-time to work after maternity leave; three to four days a week to start with. We have strong HR support who regularly keep in touch with individuals to make sure that the work balance is manageable and fair.

Does this also apply to fathers, and do men ask for it as much?

This does apply to fathers, although generally fewer men have asked for part-time work due to childcare. This is not influenced by the practice, but it is personal choice. It is more common for men to request flexible working times to allow nursery/school drop off/pick-ups, etc. Up until now, we have had no requests for parental leave. We also accommodate working from home.

What is the best practice for architects on maternity leave?

Keeping in touch while on maternity is something that we leave completely down to the individual – no one is pressurised or required to keep in touch, although some people will maintain contact to keep an awareness of how the practice/projects are progressing. HR makes an effort to include people on maternity (and paternity) in relevant training, away days and anything that we feel they may be interested in, relating to work or a project. The culture generally within is to stay in touch socially.

Does working part-time or flexibly stop people from getting promotions or pay rises?

Part-time/flexible working does not stop employees from getting promotions or pay rises. People are judged on the quality of work that they deliver.

Is flexible working on the rise?

Flexi-time is on the rise for maternity/paternity reasons because of the age profile of the office. It is a part of life which needs to be managed. This is most successfully done with continual communication so that work can be programmed around other requirements.

Does flexible working help in terms of staff retention? 

Yes. If we didn’t work with staff to allow a level of flexible working, people would be forced to leave. It’s very much in the practice’s interest to accommodate part-time/flexible time, otherwise the valuable knowledge and skill asset which has been built up over time would be lost. Our Bristol office was initially set up to allow one of our associate directors to remain working with us following the family move away from London.

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