Why we’re calling on UK business to support carers in the workplace

By Simi Dubb
Global Head of Diversity and Inclusion

This week our Group Chief Executive, Iain Conn, wrote to over one hundred businesses about a growing issue facing UK employers – the increasing number of workers who are also providing unpaid care for a friend or family member. Supporting carers has long been an issue we are passionate about which is why we recently announced a three-year strategic partnership with Carers UK to bring a greater focus to this concern.

Carers UK data estimates that one in seven people are juggling work and unpaid caring. Employers are doing more than ever before to support these individuals, but an increasing number – nearly half a million people – have given up work over the past two years as a result of their caring responsibilities. That’s a staggering 600 people every day.  

We believe this is too many and that there are substantial benefits to business, society, and families in helping as many carers as possible to remain in work. Our experience shows that there is a clear business case for supporting carers with savings from increased retention, improved productivity and ensuring carers don’t have to take unplanned absences.

We’ve recently calculated that the estimated financial saving made by supporting our people with a flexible carer policy and peer support is around £1.8 million a year. This saving is achieved by avoiding unplanned absences and presenteeism (working while unwell or not fully performing) due to caring responsibilities. A further cumulative saving of £1.3 million can also be realised through increased retention by supporting colleagues to stay in work while they care for loved ones.

Overall, we estimate that UK companies could collectively save up to £4.8 billion every year through avoiding unplanned absences and a further £3.4 billion through improved employee retention by adopting flexible working policies to support those with caring responsibilities.

We are working hard to retain a diverse and skilled workforce through our carers policies which includes flexible working and a carers network. Today, we have announced a change to our carers leave policy to give our carers up to six weeks paid leave per year. This includes 10 days paid carers leave followed by two weeks that can be taken with matched annual leave. We will be applying these principles across Centrica globally. It’s the right thing to do and we want to support our employees and share best practices with others. We are also working with Carers UK, with support from Business in the Community to urge the Government to introduce more support for carers such as mandatory paid carers leave.

We know that many businesses support carers and there are many examples of great practices that have helped unpaid carers stay in work. We would encourage anyone interested in this issue to sign up to the Employers for Carers Forum so that together, we can help ensure the upward trend of carers giving up work doesn’t continue.

Please visit our website to find out more about our partnership with Carers UK and the work we’re doing to support our people balancing work with caring for their loved ones.