After a year of adversity, in which employees and employers have been stretched to the limit by COVID-19, DIY specialists Wickes are breaking new ground for their colleagues’ welfare.
The home improvement retailer has made promoting greater diversity and inclusion for their people and the wider retail sector one of their driving ambitions, and has recently been included on the Financial Times’ 2020 list of Diversity Leaders, ranked in the top 10 of UK retail.
Now, following several initiatives that tap into their “Let’s Care For Each Other” ethos, Wickes has become the first national retailer to provide comprehensive parental support benefits for all 8,300 employees – and their partners – via new digital healthcare platform, Peppy.
Delivered via the Peppy app, the benefit includes instant messaging with expert pre and postnatal practitioners, peer support with group chat, 1-to-1 video consultations with infant feeding and baby sleep specialists, and access to mental health support.
Diversity and Inclusion Manager, Claira Singh, shares how challenging this year has been for Wickes’ colleagues, reveals why this partnership with Peppy is so significant, and explains why greater perinatal support is now an urgent priority for all employers.
Has Wickes always been a champion of diversity and inclusivity?
We’ve been on this journey since 2016. Back then we were a proper DIY, male-orientated business, but we ran a training and development programme called ‘Women of the Future’ that was the first of its kind for Wickes. From there we set up a women’s forum, a men’s forum, an LGBT+ group, and it’s continued to evolve really naturally.
We now have five employee working groups: LGBT+, BAME, Ability, Wellbeing and Balance for Better. They are all colleague-run groups with the full support of the Board and they help us understand the barriers so we can understand how to get over them.
What kind of barriers have you been able to overcome recently?
Since October 2019 we’ve overhauled our maternity, paternity and adoption leave, increased maternity pay from six weeks at full pay to 13 weeks and offer better support for anyone suffering a miscarriage or going through IVF.
We’ve also done loads of education and celebration around race and ethnicity, about the LGBT+ community and disabilities, and now we’re at the stage where we want to effect change. This is where the family leave initiatives come in.
What issues around parental support do you want to address?
Our Balance for Better group highlighted the impact having a baby can have on mental health. In the first few weeks new mothers get loads of help from health visitors, friends and family and their partner who might be at home with paternity leave. Then the partner goes back to work, friends and family stop visiting as much, health visitors stop coming and there’s a really big gap before the person returns to work where they’re completely on their own.
How did this lead you to Peppy?
Peppy is a bridge for that gap. There’s someone at the end of the phone. An expert practitioner. A friend. Someone you can always have that two way communication with. We loved that idea of how it looks after the wellbeing of our colleagues and the idea to potentially prevent postnatal depression during that period and so we partnered with Peppy to put these measures in place. We reached out to Peppy in June and launched it just a few weeks ago.
What impact has the Peppy Baby programme had for Wickes’ employees so far?
It’s been huge. The fact there’s a trained practitioner at the end of the phone whenever someone needs it is really reassuring. One of my friend’s at Wickes was sceptical at first. She had just had her second son and didn’t think she’d find Peppy useful. But Covid had changed everything and her second son had colic, which her first never did, so it was a completely different experience.
After using Peppy for a few days she filmed a video for our colleagues to say, “If you think you don’t need it, you’re wrong. Download this app because it’s been a life changer”. That cemented for us within just a few weeks that this was absolutely the right thing to do for our colleagues.
Why else is this partnership with Peppy significant?
One of the reasons we went with Peppy is because they have similar values to us. They want to make healthcare available to everybody, regardless of status or salary. Wickes have a similar ambition. We would never want to treat our senior team differently to how we treat our front line colleagues. They are what makes us special.
Another reason is that it wasn’t just available for the person having the baby. All of our guys who have family members or partners or same sex couples having children, they can use the app. The whole ethos behind our Balance for Better programme is it’s not just women who have babies. Men do. Same sex couples do. We wanted to be able to offer something that met all of their needs.
How has Covid-19 made the need for parental support more urgent?
Covid has been especially tough for partners of those who have had a baby. If it’s their first child they’ve not been in all the appointments, not heard all the advice and guidance, might not even have been there for the birth. Then they’re landed with this beautiful baby that might cry all the time and not sleep and not eat. It can be really distressing for partners so the fact we’ve been able to offer Peppy for partners too is something we’re really pleased with.
What is Wickes planning next when it comes to supporting their people?
Two areas we’re looking to address with Peppy are Menopause and Fertility, particularly to support our colleagues going through IVF. And next year we’d love to get involved in the Sunflower Lanyard Scheme to formally recognise our support for people with hidden disabilities. Beyond that we’re looking at how we can effect change across the whole industry.
What change would you like to see?
I’ve been blown away by the UK supermarkets who have joined together recently to stamp out racism. I see that as the future for Wickes. I see us joining forces with other retailers, suppliers and DIY industries to effect change. Through the power of community we can start affecting society and when we do it’s going to be really powerful.
Wickes’ partnership with Peppy builds on their “Let’s Care For Each Other” ethos, a campaign to promote better diversity and inclusivity across the retail industry. Learn more about the campaign via their LinkedIn page, here.
About the author:
Sam Rider is an experienced freelance journalist, specialising in health and wellness. With over a decade covering industry trends, Sam knows wellness can be a force for positive change. From the individual, in transforming one’s physical and mental health, confidence and self-worth, to the collective, in championing sustainability, diversity and equality. He’s written for titles including Men’s Fitness, Men’s Health, Women’s Health, The Telegraph, The Guardian and regularly for global wellness news outlet Welltodo. Find him on Twitter @samrideruk.