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Royal Air Force – Winner 2018, My Family Care Best for Mothers Award

The RAF has an impressive retention rate for mothers that reflects the support it offers and proves any organisation can embrace family friendly and flexible ways of working. 

Key Points

  • 96.3 per cent retention rate of mothers one year after maternity leave, and 72 per cent five years after.
  • Practical measures to help mothers’ careers and wellbeing.
  • Complementary services to enhance and encourage family life. 

Enhanced levels of practical support for expectant and new mothers include maternity leave – or Shared Parental Leave – with 26 weeks on full pay, a dedicated clerk to guide servicewomen through maternity polices and options, access to physical training instructors with knowledge of pre and postnatal fitness and a policy of no deployment for mothers for 18 months after their child is born. 

More than 200 personnel have taken up Shared Parental Leave since it was introduced in 2015, giving all working parents more options over how to balance work and family life. 

Employees can already request flexible working options including compressing hours, variable start and finish times and home working, as well as transferring leave between serving spouses or civil partners, calling forward leave from next year or taking a block of 50 days’ leave after 15 years’ service or a Career Intermission of between 3 months and 3 years. 

In addition, the RAF is running a successful part-time working trial, which adds evidence to the case for the Armed Forces to formally adopt less than full-time working which has required a change in the law. 

More broadly, the organisation is developing a culture where women, including working mothers, are expected and respected at all levels. For example, there are mothers with young children at board level, increasing numbers of women are applying for jobs and now represent 14.1 per cent of the RAF workforce and no jobs are closed to women. 

Together with the RAF Benevolent Fund, the RAF also provides complementary services to encourage and enhance family life. For example, a £24 million investment in on-site childcare facilities, parenting skills courses and Relate counselling, a youth support programme for young people growing up on RAF stations and the Storybook Wings scheme where parents record a story for their children to listen to while they’re away. 

Motherhood can bring some women to question whether a balance between service and family can be struck. Our aim is to give families the support they need to help them achieve that balance. In return, we benefit from a reduction in the cost of recruitment and training but above all we retain highly skilled individuals who possess valuable experience.

Victoria Littlechild, RAF Employment Policy.