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Insights What makes our Parental Buddy Scheme a game-changer?

In 2022, Atkins and Faithful+Gould, members of the AtkinsRéalis Group, partnered with Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Specialists to launch an invaluable initiative: the Parental Buddy scheme. This program provides critical support to parents and carers-to-be and new parents or carers. Our pilot volunteers have been vital to the scheme's success, cultivating an inclusive environment and bolstering team wellbeing. 

If parenthood came with GPS, it would mostly say, recalculating...

Since the initiative's start, our amazing volunteers have assisted ten parents within our organization, addressing their concerns and supporting their journey into parenthood. The Parental Buddy program aims to combat feelings of overwhelm, isolation, exhaustion, loss of identity, depression, and guilt that parents and carers often experience. It offers emotional and practical support to those transitioning into or back from parental roles.

Photo of Rebecca smiling towards the camera

Meet buddies Claire and Wendy.

Today, we spotlight two exceptional individuals, Claire, a Health & Safety Consultant, and Wendy, a Project Controls Consultant. As early participants in the Parental Buddy scheme, they share their experiences a year on, reflecting on their growth and expressing continued commitment to the program. Join us as we delve into their inspiring stories.

Why become a parental buddy or seek support from the scheme?

Claire: I recently decided to return to work after nine months of maternity leave. I had a particularly bad experience on my maternity leave, and I decided to become a parental buddy to make sure other parents never had to go through what I went through. I wish this scheme had been around for me, as I would have flourished with the support and advice during my challenging but fantastic journey.

Wendy: I'm a mum to two boys – Toby (4.5 years) and Oscar (20 months). I was pleased to see the buddy scheme had launched during my second maternity leave, and I've been taking advantage of it. It appealed to me to be able to talk to someone who had been through similar experiences returning to work. Luckily, I found Claire, who knew the challenges of juggling two children and experienced something similar to me in the early days.

I wish the scheme had been in place earlier as I definitely would have reached out earlier in my parent' journeys.' The consistent support of a buddy would have been invaluable. I found the transition back to work hard both times for very different reasons, and it was great to have the option to reach out to my buddy this time.

What do you love most about the scheme?

Claire: You get to speak to parents with different experiences and share your knowledge and advice. You also get to make a contact within the workplace who is there for you to reach out to and give you support. It is amazing how little is mentioned and how little people know, so we are there to support this.

Wendy: It can cover all aspects of the parental leave (pre, during and post). Before reaching out, you can read a bit about the buddy and their experiences. It also encourages open discussions about the challenges faced and an opportunity to share experiences. This helps ease the mental load, and you can benefit from someone else's practical tips.

What has taking part in the scheme shown you?

Claire: I've learnt a lot regarding KiT (Keep in Touch) days, what you are entitled to, and work hours to come back to. A lot is not mentioned when you tell your employer you are expecting.

Wendy: I'm not alone in my struggles, and it really helps to talk. Our relevant policies are relatively straightforward, but finding specific information isn't easy. There's a lot of useful information to be shared, for example, on HR policies directly from people who have experienced it, such as the cap on KiT days, hospital admittance during pregnancy, breastfeeding when back to work guidance, what to do when your child is off nursery due to sickness, how to navigate the formality of flexible working requests, meetings and appeals.

Having excellent policies is great, but often we don't have time to read through pages of information, so it's invaluable speaking to those in the know to help interpret and support – and perhaps even attend HR meetings with you.

How do employees go about finding a buddy?

Claire: It's easy. If you're someone – or a manager or colleague of someone – who is going on, is currently on family care leave, or is soon to be returning, you can reach out directly to one of our friendly buddies who will offer support during this time. You can also find a parental buddy through our mentoring portal.

Wendy: I would highly recommend seeking out a buddy. It's time well spent! You can learn valuable insights about how someone else has dealt with challenges, bounce ideas off them, and know someone is there when things are tough. I'd encourage people to reach out right from trying to conceive – you'll benefit from the support throughout your journey.

I want to become a parental buddy, so I can share how I've overcome some of the challenges and be a support during difficult times. It seems a shame to have gone through such a variety of experiences and not be able to help someone off the back of it.

Proud of our culture of support

We're incredibly proud of our employee's deep commitment to each other's wellbeing, addressing essential topics such as maternity, paternity, adoption leave, baby loss, and menopause. Our award-winning staff-started resource group, #ParentNet, is a testament to this, ensuring a supportive environment for employees transitioning to or from family care leave.

Inspired by the dedication and forward-thinking culture – seeking an environment that prioritizes employee wellbeing? Join us in creating a more supportive and inclusive workplace where we all can thrive: search live roles