Here to talk about this issue is Customer Relationship Manager and Chair of our pioneering employee-led Carers Network, Geoff Kitchener, who has worked for British Gas for over 14 years while also caring for his wife.
Geoff said: “Becoming a carer can happen to anyone, at any time. If someone you care about has been taken ill, had an accident or developed a disability, you want to be there for them. But it can sometimes be challenging to do this and hold down your job.”
“Companies like Centrica are leading the way in making this possible which can make the world of difference. The type of support available includes being able to work flexible hours and being one of few large companies to offer paid leave for carers which is in addition to our annual leave.”
The difficulty, however, is that many people do not identify themselves as carers.
Geoff explained: “The biggest problem we have is identifying ‘hidden carers’ - those we don’t know about and who don’t know they’re entitled to the back-up we provide. And when I started out in my role as Chair of the Carers Network, tackling this issue was at the top of my list.”
“Over the years, we’ve all worked really hard to raise awareness of the Network so that we can create a sound database of carers we can communicate with, and I’m proud to say that we’ve now got 1,000-members compared to the 250 we had back in 2005. This means we can regularly share information with carers about what support they’re entitled to both inside and outside the company while they can also ask us for advice or raise problems they may have.”
But there is always more we can do.
“With an estimated one in eight adults being a carer in the UK, it’s obvious that despite our best efforts, I’m certain there are more employees out there who may need our support” said Geoff, who added: “We continue to run awareness campaigns across the business to reach even more people and I’m pleased that later today for example, I’ll be hosting an event at our Edinburgh office to do exactly that. And in 2016, we also want to hold a face-to-face event for the entire Network to help them grow their resilience and seek feedback on how we can better support them”.
Geoff continued: “Other companies and organisations are envious of the difference our Network is making and as part of my role as Chair, I often share our learnings so that other carers irrespective of where they work can benefit from what we’re doing here. For example, I’m currently working with Marks and Spencer and the House of Commons to help them set up their own employee network”.
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