Over three million people juggle caring responsibilities with work
Centrica estimates that UK companies could save up to £4.8 billion a year in unplanned absences and a further £3.4 billion in improved employee retention by adopting flexible working policies to support those with caring responsibilities.
According to Carers UK, one in eight adults are informal carers, meaning they provide unpaid care for a friend or family member. With over three million people balancing these responsibilities with work, the significant demands of caring mean that one in five are forced to stop working altogether.
Centrica has experienced the financial benefits from supporting its employees with a flexible carer policy, saving an estimated £1.8 million a year by providing paid leave and peer support to help its employees avoid unplanned absences and presenteeism (working while unwell or not fully performing) due to caring responsibilities.
The company offers a range of support to 1,118 registered employees, including paid carers' leave, the right to request flexible working and an employee-led carers’ network. The business also estimates cumulative savings of £1.3 million in increased retention through helping people stay in work while caring for others.
Following the success of its own policy, Centrica, the parent company of British Gas and Hive, is urging Government to ensure that all carers have the right to request flexible working from the day they start working with a company, along with a statutory paid carers’ leave policy.
The company has also joined forces with Carers UK in a three-year strategic partnership that aims to improve the lives of the 6.5 million carers in the UK. This formal partnership builds on Centrica’s previous work with Carers UK over the last fifteen years, developing leading policies to support employees with caring responsibilities. The company aims to raise £1 million for Carers UK over the course of the partnership and increase public awareness of the issues, while developing new products and services aimed at improving the quality of carers’ lives.
Simi Dubb, Director of Diversity and Inclusion at Centrica commented: “We’ve already seen the enormous benefit of adopting flexible policies for carers. It can make a huge difference to people if they feel supported at work and we can help minimise the stress that juggling both roles can cause. We want our employees to feel like they can manage to combine work with caring responsibilities wherever possible, which has helped us attract and retain a diverse and skilled workforce.
We’ve partnered with Carers UK because we are committed to making a difference and one way we will do this is by continuing to support our employees with caring responsibilities and encouraging other employers to do the same. We will also be exploring different ways to help improve the lives of our customers who are carers.”
Madeleine Starr, MBE, Director of Business Development and Innovation at Carers UK, says “We’ve been working for over fifteen years with Centrica on their flexible policies for carers, and they are a leader in the field. Workplace support for carers is becoming an increasingly important issue with more focus on flexibility, productivity, and with an ageing population, the need to keep working for longer. We want Government to look at improving rights for carers at work so that all employees can benefit from the approach that Centrica has taken. Not only does this make good business sense, it helps to strengthen families and communities, and improves people’s health and wellbeing.
Our strategic partnership over the next three years will align both our organisations on our areas of expertise, where we can work together to make a difference for carers who need our support. Together we aim to bring about a step change in the way that society recognises, values and supports carers.”