This week is National Carers Week and its aim is to improve the lives of carers and the people they care for. At Centrica this is exactly what we strive to do because we recognise that while carers can be a husband, a wife, a daughter or a son, they can also be an integral part of our talented workforce.
Over 6.5m people in the UK are carers and we want to ensure that our people with carer responsibilities can continue to meet their personal commitments while also being able to achieve their career ambitions. To support these goals we provide creative, flexible and innovative solutions that support our carer workers. This not only helps ensure we retain a happy, healthy and productive workforce who make our business a success, but it also means we can play an important role reducing the estimated 315,000 people who have had to leave employment due to being unable to juggle work alongside carer responsibilities (note 1).
Being a carer can be a fulfilling experience, but without the right level of support it can have a significant personal impact. Our Carers Policy aims to abate carer pressures by making it easier to better balance their carer role with employment. Wherever possible we will try to accommodate requests for flexible working, such as taking a career break, working variable hours, going part-time or working from home. Carers are also able to fulfil personal commitments, like taking a loved one to the hospital, without having to use only annual leave because leave is matched (note 2).
We also actively support our carer employees via a newly developed programme formed withEmployers for Carers. The programme raises awareness with managers to help them provide improved assistance to carers and supporting them during the different stages of caring. Employees can seek further professional and independent advice from counsellors as part of our 24-hour Employee Assistance Programme (EAP).
Additional support is available through the highly effective Carers Network. Established in 2005, the Network now totals 800 members who are carers from across our business. The network provides a valuable source of carer information as well as an online discussion board, where experiences can be shared to provide mutual support and advice. The network also enables us to seek the collective views of carers, which makes us a better business by embedding carer needs in company behaviours and policies.
Centrica is regarded as a leader in providing awareness, assistance and benefits to our carer employees. Our progressive stance on flexible working has received external recognition and was recently shortlisted for the ‘Best for Flexible Working’ at the Working Families Award due later in June 2014.
In the same way that our carer employees endeavor to look after their loved ones, we want to look after our workforce. And it’s not only just the right thing to do - with the number of carers in the UK set to rise from 6m to 9m over the next 30 years (note 3), we want to help our talented and skilled workforce stay in work to make our business and our country stronger and more successful.
Find out more about how we aim to make Centrica a great place to work by reading our 2013 CR Performance Review.
1 L Pickard, Public expenditure costs of carers leaving employment (2012) LSE Health & Social Care, London School of Economics and Political Science.
2 For example, if five days are taken off work, 2.5 days will be taken as planned leave and 2.5 days from annual holiday entitlement.
3 The peak age for carer employees is between 45-64 when careers are peaking having already gained valuable skills and experience: Employers for Carers, Business case.