Good Work for All: How Pets at Home is tackling the gender pay gap and helping frontline workers progress

65% of Pets at Home's workforce are women, but the company was experiencing high attrition rates among these employees. After identifying that a lack of flexibility in managment roles was a key factor the pets retailer introduced two new job designs.

Pets at Home, the UK’s largest pets retailer, employs over 8,000 store-based colleagues of whom 65% are women. The company is growing fast and is a highly regarded brand, having won many awards as an employer of choice. Pets at Home wanted to understand why their attrition rates for women were high. Flexible working specialists Timewise invited the views of groups of female frontline colleagues, store and general managers, and promotion candidates at different job levels. What they found was that, while many women do stay and move within the company, the ratio of men moving off the shop floor into assistant manager roles was double that of women.

The lack of flexibility in management roles was a major contributing factor. Two-thirds of colleagues consulted agreed that more would be interested in the promotion if they knew they could work part-time or flexible shifts. Through data mapping, surveys and listening groups, and analysis of operational practices, Timewise helped Pets at Home to identify the challenges and opportunities within the business.
The Process
The board made a commitment in the business plan to tackle gender diversity (and help meet their gender pay gap reporting obligations) through job redesign and set up a steering group with senior representatives from operations and HR to run the change process.
A series of workshops with HR and operational teams identified operational constraints and management capability. Jobshare and part-time were identified as the options which met business needs while also appealing to frontline candidates for promotion. A strategic decision was made to make two flexible job designs available in store management jobs from day one; jobshare partnerships, with each partner working a minimum of three days a week and part-time, with the job holder working a minimum of four days a week.
To facilitate the organisation-wide culture change needed to underpin this change, Pets at Home has provided training to managers to identify and recruit colleagues into the new roles, and to facilitate this new approach to work within teams in stores. The company also adjusted its flexible working policy and created guidance to managers and staff to make explicit that conversations about individual flexibility needs were welcome at any point.
Management roles are now advertised with flexible options and role models are highlighted through internal communications channels. For example, in a large and busy store, Pets at Home has supported a job share between two store managers who say: “We work alternate days and share responsibility for managing the store… We’re different personalities and have different ways of doing things but the combination works brilliantly… Our store results have been excellent and our team are a happy bunch.”
Timewise guidance for job- sharers 
  • Work out how the responsibilities will be shared and the tasks divided. For example, rota planning might happen on a Monday and team meetings on a Friday, and unless these routines can be changed, the tasks will fall to the manager in work on those days
  • Decide how working days and shifts are split between the job-sharers, and whether these patterns are fixed or variable, for example monthly or quarterly
  • Jobshare partners don’t necessarily need to know each other before they start working together if the arrangement is designed well, and it is clear that they are jointly responsible for hitting performance targets and managing their teams.
  • Handovers are critical and job-sharers must have good communication skills – both between each other and with their teams.
  • The line manager of the jobshare partnership needs to be clear about how to manage performance.
“Our job share partnership works really well. We complement and trust each other, and it means we can bring a great mix of skills to Pets at Home, whilst also balancing our career with family life. We would definitely recommend this way of working, both for women who want to progress their careers in retail and companies who want to keep great talent.”
Juliet Botur and Emma Harris, Job-share Store Managers, Rawtenstall
“We are proud of the great engagement our colleagues give our business and we know how important it is to our success. But we know from our survey that work-life balance for our managers was becoming an issue, and for us ultimately, that is what this is all about, making a difference to our colleagues’ work-life balance…There are total synergies with our actions on flexible working and our work in promoting women in the workplace.”
Kate Williams, People and Engagement Manager, Pets at Home
This case study has been provided by Timewise.