St Luke’s London, the independent creative agency, is introducing a childcare policy that offers staff with young children a monthly cash benefit to help with childcare costs for the first three years after maternity or paternity leave.
Already an issue before the pandemic, the agency has identified that as its staff returns to the workplace, many parents are struggling to afford necessary childcare.
St Luke’s new policy provides parents or guardians at the agency who earn under £70,000 with a sliding scale of cash benefit, a maximum of £500 per month, to help with HMRC-compliant childcare costs for their young children.
The scheme is part of a wider set of initiatives that the agency is implementing to support employees as they return to the workplace.
To help spread the childcare load between parents and encourage greater equality, the firm has also initiated a "Bath time" policy. One day per week, every parent can stop work an hour early to do school runs, bath-time or dinner duties. Other firms already have this bath-time policy in place.
Along with trialling a 3:2 working model (three days from the office, two from home), St Luke’s is giving every employee one "work away" week per year where they can work from a remote location within a two-hour time zone, anywhere from Yorkshire to Marrakech.
“We are determined to change the conversation about the new workplace rules and tackle the root causes in the WFH debate,” said St Luke's chief executive, Neil Henderson.
He added: “Childcare and its prohibitive cost are a real barrier to parents returning to work and continuing to develop and grow their careers. We have implemented a series of initiatives that will help alleviate this issue at the crucial crunch points: money and time.”
Hannah Talbut, a St Luke's creative who is currently on maternity leave, said that working from home during lockdown and a "lonely year's maternity leave" made the prospect of returning to the office "extremely daunting".
She added: "But knowing I have that support from St Luke's has been a huge reassurance. The childcare bonus takes a huge weight off my shoulders, as the costs of nursery are painful.
"But also knowing I can leave early to spend time with my daughter guilt-free is so important. It's initiatives like these that will encourage more mums back to the industry, and ultimately close the gender pay gap."
During lockdown, St Luke’s moved into new offices in Covent Garden. The workspace has been designed based on feedback from staff and experts to offer a variety of zoned spaces, including private working areas, yoga spaces and a terrace.
It has advanced Zoom technology in meeting rooms and sound-proofed booths and headsets. Every meeting is a scheduled Zoom meeting, so people can join without pre-planning their location.