• Car firm runs ‘babies in the office’ scheme

  • 17 Jul 2012
  • Comments 20 comments

Car company Addison Lee has introduced the first UK scheme that allows employees to bring their babies to work with them.

The ‘Babies in the Office’ initiative sees new mothers and fathers care for their babies at their desks, rather than place them in an on-site crèche or nursery.

The “revolutionary” idea has been successfully adopted by 170 firms in the US, and has seen more than 2,000 babies brought into the workplace there.

Addison Lee – Europe’s largest minicab and chauffeur business – initially trialled the experiment for a BBC documentary, but has now formally implemented the policy at its London office, where 900 workers are based.

The company has so far welcomed eight babies onto its Euston site as part of the scheme, which is designed to encourage staff to return to work after maternity leave.

Liam Griffin, managing director of Addison Lee, said: “As a family-owned business we were excited at the chance to participate in this project to create a better work-life balance for our employees.”

Griffin added that he hoped the US scheme would be implemented on a wider basis in the UK, as it offered advantages to both employers and employees.

“The scheme has a number of significant benefits for both our staff and the business, from increased staff loyalty and retention through to elevated morale resulting in improved productivity,” he continued.

“Women realised it would give them the possibility of saving on childcare while bonding with their babies for longer and continuing to breastfeed.”

The first part of the BBC2 documentary aired last night, and the programme concludes this evening at 7pm.

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  • I'm a Head of HR who has been asked to explore this idea by the company's diversity leadership group. I have concerns about the feasibility of having children in the office but I recognise the needs of parents, despite not being one myself (out of choice). It's interesting to hear so many mums on here saying that they don't think it would work. I am also pleased that someone identified the concept of eldercare too - this is so often overlooked and many employees who have this responsibility in their lives tell me they feel employment law/policy is unfairly biased towards children. In an aging society, it's everyone's business to look after older people so we need to give this some considerationt too.<br/>I think a workplace creche or subsidised childcare is much more realistic.

  • I have sometimes had to bring my children to work. Its not conducive to them or me. No matter how much I ask them to bring something to do, provide snacks, they still demand my attention. Normally the minute I go on the phone or someone comes into see me. When at work I am being paid by my employer to do my job and that means focusing on my job. I do feel that us working parents need to understand that we cannot have it all, we chose to have a family and that means making sacrifices and choices. Bringing babies to work, only puts people under more stress, the workplace is not the place for a baby. As a parent you either secure childcare you feel is suitable or you take time out of work and commit to your baby as you did when you committed to your job pre baby. I am in support of work life balance, but only if we accept that  we will have to make sacrifices as well.

  • It's amazing how few people actually consider these parents' colleagues! I'm not a mother, by choice, I can't even tolerate a screaming child on public, and if I had to have one forced on me at work, I would go insane! I really feel for the others in that office, and of course I'm sure if they said anything negative they'd have an angry mum on their back before they could say 'get your kid away from me'! Ridiculous idea, totally biased towards parents

  • Have your say...As a working single mum who constantly has had to juggle a career and family life I cannot see how this works on any level.  Both my children are teenagers now but to have them in the office is disruptive and you cannot possibly focus on your work fully.  A better solution is to invest more in working from home, affordable childcare and more flexible working hours.  Having children in the office is a destraction and is not something that I think will ever work.  What about those members of staff who don't want or like children or perhaps those members of staff who are trying to have a child and can't.  Opens up a whole can of employment law worms.

  • I don't believe this can ever work.  When my two children were young I would not have been able to work with them in the office, not at all.  They would have been bored and would have, quite rightly, needed my attention.  Instead they went to a great, affordable, low cost nursery as we lived in Australia.  They were happy.  We need better affordable childcare and flexible working.  I have benefited from flexible working, as has my organisation.  I would not want to use or offer the bring your baby to work option.  Never.

  • Have your say... I agree with Barbara. I'm also an older mother and my children are both in their 20s. I've spent all of my career working part time since my eldest child was born in 1989 but I still had to juggle work with childcare and many other activities when they were young. <br/><br/>The office is no place for babies and young children, especially if they have special needs or learning difficulties.  If employers want to support working parents, there are a range of more suitable options including flexible working at all levels, offering childcare vouchers or providing a workplace nursery with qualified staff.

  • I can only applaud Addison Lee on their bravery and vision. I feel that in the workplace of the future people will look back and scratch their heads and wonder how we could have done it differently as we now do with such things as women in the workplace and working from home! It's not a case of "it doesn't work" but "how can we make it work"? This is more than an HR issue it's a societal one. Employers just need to be a little bit more open to changing the working space as they have realised in the US!

  • Have your say...I don't believe this is appropriate for an office AT ALL! Babies and children are so demanding, how on earth would you be taken seriously by managers and clients having a child in tow while at work! My son is nearly 5 and I would even take him with me to get my nails done let alone spend a whole day at work!!

  • Have your say...Did not see the programme but will look at the second episode tonight. Creative solutions to equality have to be welcomed. But I have to say it is easy to come up with a long list of reasons 'why not' than reasons 'why' in this case. Probably it would require a certain type of work place for it to work well. I feel that home working is the best form of 'babies in the office' scheme.<br/><br/>On a personal level, I am more at the grandfather end of life (should grandfathers be able to bring the grandchild to the office?) which makes me think of eldercare, that often more challenging end of caring. 'Elderly relative with dementia in the office' scheme? As an idea I think that it needs a lot more work. Richard Wood

  • I don't agree that bringing your child into work is a good idea.  My daughter is 3 and she needs constant stimulation with age appropriate activities.  This is what is important for her development.  She would not enjoy coming into work with me or my husband and I'm sure that she would quickly learn the 'bored' word!  <br/><br/>Subsidised creches or on-site creches will really help give more choice for parents.  Also more flexibility to work from home at times especially if you live a distance from work and your child is in childcare near home or more flexibility to leave earlier or start later so that you can pick them up more easily would help though this is difficult if you work a customer-facing role like a call centre.

  • Have your say...as a Mum of a 7 month old, this wouldn't work in my role. It's great that this employer is looking for creative ways to be more family friendly but I personally don't see this catching on. I am based in the US and my employer is reviewing options of ways to be more family friendly - this wasn't even a suggestion.  For me, giving me flexibility to leave early to pick her up is the best option and allowing me to catch up on work after she is asleep.

  • Here in UK we are good in copying the ideas but not how they are being implemented. A work environment in a large US company is much bigger and better than that of UK. Being a mother myself, I would love to work for a place that provides child care facilities. This will help staff with kids to perform much better have the assurance that their kids are within their reach.

  • Presumably staff bringing children to work continue to receive the same pay as staff without children -- but are doing less work?  How is this fair or encouraging for those staff?  Engagement of parents I am in favour of with progressive policies on time off, working hours, even on-site child care, but a child at your desk?  A step too far, and likely to build resentment as others with no children pick up the extra work...

  • I'm a mother too and, although it's some time ago, I can still recall juggling my demanding job with childcare, nursery runs, repeated bouts of tonsilitis and conjunctivitis, upset tummies, lack of sleep, severe chicken pox and nursery school holidays. <br/><br/>Whilst I'm all for work/life balance, I don't believe that babies belong in the workplace...<br/><br/>I don't think it's fair on colleagues without children.<br/><br/>It must surely distract from focus and the quality of work.<br/><br/>There are considerable health and safety risks.<br/><br/>Office environments are not conducive to child development and are totally lacking in stimulation - at least for a baby.<br/><br/>If companies want to support "back to work" mums and dads, then they could provide subsidised creches, manned by qualified nursery staff, where parents can take short breaks to visit or breastfeed their children, or perhaps they could drop in on them via webcam which is already used in some nurseries.<br/><br/>Now bringing pets to work.... hey, that's different entirely. Unless the pet happens to be a snake!

  • I think it's a good idea. Better than placing your child into childcare where you don't even get to see your child. Also even though all these people are saying you cannot focus 100% on the job well of course you can't but I think the fact you can have your child with you is what makes all the difference. 100% focus on the child when it needs it. So its more of working around the childs needs.

  • Have your say...This is a joke.  I am a mother and there is no way that you can focus on your job 100% if you have your child with you.  Plus that would mean that you are not focusing on your child and this is really not good for the child!

  • This is excellent, however I am disappointed that you have run this story today and 'leaked' the outcome of this excellent documentary - I was waiting in anticipation of the 'decision' to be announced during the program this evening.

  • I caught the second half of the first episode last night.  What really struck me was the disparity in workspaces when the UK managers went to see the US offices where this Babies At Work initiative had been in place for some time.  In the US each worker had a cubicle with high, probably sound absorbing, dividers between them and the others in the office.  In the UK they had a totally open plan office with no dividers and about 4 employees in the space of one employee's cublicle in the US.  <br/><br/>This probably makes it much easier to have babies in the office in the US as if they make a noise they are probably only going to disturb their parent and a mobile child would be fairly easy to corral (just put a stair gate at the entrance to the cubicle).  With a cubicle it might even be possible (by adding a curtain over the entrance and "Do Not Disturb" sign) for a mother who is *** feeding to do so circumspectly, if she wanted to do so, in her cublicle rather than going to a designated room.  <br/><br/>In the UK open plan office a noisy baby would disturb the whole office (this was seen where a fussing baby at one end of the office was audible to a customer on the phone to the sales team at the other end of the office) and a mobile child (again as seen on the show) can wander off at will.  <br/><br/>I know from experience where I work that when someone brings in their new baby you can hear every cry, whimper and belch, in an open plan office that holds close to 300 people.<br/><br/>None of these problems are insurmountable, they have been solved in the US.  What they do require is solving, US style cubicles and more space per employee probably being key.

  • Sounds like a fad.  I can't see it catching on.  Watching the programme, it looks extrememly difficult trying to run your job whilst children are demanding attention. The stress of a working environment and tending to your child is not a good mix for the child or the parent.<br/><br/>Is it safe?  The modern office designed with efficiency in mind has to be adjusted significantly (soft corners, covered plug sockets, childproof door, drawers, removal of anything in reach which can be a chocking hazard etc) otherwise you're taking a huge risk as a parent or as an employer

  • What a wonderful idea !  Hope it'll be copied by other employers.<br/><br/>I'm a careers / jobs advisor for the WorkingMums site and many of the topics mums raise relate to the cost and difficulty of finding adequate childcare.