Juggling a career with caring responsibilities

John Collier

By John Collier

The Regional Chair of our Carers Network in Cardiff, John Collier, shares his thoughts on the importance of having the right support in place for working carers.

I know from personal experience just how important it is to have support at work when you’re also caring for loved ones.

So I’ve been delighted to have been at the launch of Employers for Carers Wales today, welcoming my local AM, the Welsh Government’s Minister for Children and Social Care Huw Irranca-Davies, to our British Gas contact centre in Cardiff.

It’s great to see the Welsh Government backing the creation of a network to deliver advice to employers on how to support the estimated 180,000 working carers in Wales.

I really hope that we now see many more organisations joining my employer, Centrica, to support Employers for Carers – so that they can help their workers meet their caring commitments and also maintain an active career.

For me, juggling work with caring responsibilities has been a way of life for the past 12 years.  I saw my responsibilities at home increase when my father was diagnosed with Parkinson’s nine years ago, which meant looking after him as well as my disabled mother. Sadly, soon after I had lost both my parents, I saw my partner’s health deteriorate too as a result of dementia on top of a long-standing condition.

This has meant supporting visits to hospital and the doctor and managing care workers – on top of dealing with the inevitable emotional impact of being concerned for my nearest and dearest.

I’ve been lucky to work for a company that understands all this. Centrica were founder members of Employers for Carers at UK level. That’s been a tremendous help to me personally. I have found my managers have been supportive, enabling flexible working and emergency leave as required.

It’s crucial to have a supportive environment at work. I’ve learned the hard way that it is all too easy to just struggle on, trying to arrange appointments around work and attempting to carry on like nothing has changed.

That’s why I have got so involved in the Centrica Carers Network, locally and nationally. I am proud that we have signed up more than 180 members at the Cardiff office alone.

We’re part of a network around the country that is now more than 1,000-strong. The network not only helps cares understand the support that is available to them at work but also helps provide the opportunity to talk to others who have been through the same experience.

Carers at Centrica are able to take up to 30 days matched paid carer’s leave each year, as well as ask for flexible working or working from home where that is practical.

It’s expected that there will be a 40 per cent rise in the number of carers needed by 2037 – which is going to have major implications for all of us. I’m sure that the Employers for Carers Wales will be providing practical advice and support to carers and their managers –and sincerely hope organisations across Wales will take up the minister’s call to get involved.  After all, it’s a great thing to show you care this Carers’ Week.