Supporting our carers. Advocating change. Making history.

Our Carers Network is going from strength to strength – and this year marks two decades since that journey began. So, this Carers Week, we’re looking back at the key milestones we’ve hit over the past twenty years, celebrating just how far we’ve come.

Caring about carers

In 2004, the carers of Centrica joined forces to set up an employee-led network. 

Together, they built a strong community that could share their experiences, support each other and, crucially, access the vital tools, resources and information they needed to manage work and caring responsibilities.

Working with charity partner Carers UK, the network grew at speed and scale, alongside the market-leading policies we developed, giving colleagues the practical support that was missing. This included introducing our flagship carers’ paid leave policy, offering planned carers leave to the carers at Centrica.

But getting the Network up and running meant raising awareness of the issue at hand, and letting everyone in the business, including “hidden carers”, know that the Network existed. 

We’ve all worked hard to raise awareness of the network”, says a former Co-Chair, Geoff Kitchener, “so that we could create a database of carers to communicate with, and ensure they understand what support they’re entitled to inside and out.” 

Partnering with Carers UK

In just ten years, the network skyrocketed from 250 members to 1,000.

From growing the network internally to developing market-leading policies, we continued working with Carers UK to drive lasting systemic change, both within Centrica and beyond. 

A landmark moment for us came in 2009, when we co-founded Employers for Carers (EfC) – an employer membership forum helping businesses build carer-friendly workplaces across the country. The EfC has continued to grow and make a real impact on a national level – it currently supports 230 organisations in the public, private and voluntary sectors.

John Collier, a former Colleague and Co-Chair of the Network, knew the importance of carer-friendly workplaces better than anyone. After caring for his father for twelve years, it was no surprise that he was an active member of the Network, and was vocal about his support for the EfC.

I really hope that we now see many more organisations joining us to support the EfC,” said John, “so that they can help their workers meet their caring commitments and also maintain an active career.

Other than the EfC, our recent work with Carers UK is something to shout about.

In 2019, we entered a three-year strategic partnership with the charity and worked together to fundraise £2 million. The collaboration was designed to improve the lives of 6.5m carers across the country, and help one million stay in, or return to work, by 2030. 

With our recent achievements and breakthroughs, we’re positive we’re on the right track to turning that into a reality.

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Our part in making history

A landmark moment for both the Carers Network and the UK was our involvement in the Carer’s Leave Act 2023.

This watershed policy would provide vital employment rights for people who juggle unpaid caring responsibilities with paid employment.

With so much at stake, the Carers Network headed to Westminster, backing Wendy Chamberlain MP, to play our part in passing the bill. Patrick McCarthy, our Network Co-Chair at the time, spoke at several events, sharing his own stories, advocating the bill and explaining the support available at Centrica.

The bill received royal assent in 2023 – and, as of April of this year, now provides all carers in employment with a new statutory right to take five days of unpaid leave each year to fulfil their caring responsibilities. 

The statutory entitlement to unpaid carers leave will improve the lives of many,” Patrick explained, “and our role in making that happen is a key example of how we’re leading the way, showing businesses how they can best support their carers.

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Carers Week 2024

To Eleanor and Vicky, our current Network Co-Chairs, a supportive workplace is a fundamental part of their life.

Vicky cared for her parents over a six year period – but this intensified when her dad was diagnosed with a brain tumour, and suddenly required 24 hour care. 

Eleanor unexpectedly became a carer when she was 23, explaining that she “never thought that at 23 caring would be a part of my life,” Eleanor explains, “but the support I received during that time at Centrica is something I’ll always remember.”

What that support looks like has grown and evolved over the past twenty years – and in 2024, we’re confident that the tools and resources we provide now are better than ever before. Here are a few ways we’re supporting our colleagues that care: 

  • E-learning module: educating leaders on how to support carers in their team

  • Flex First working, giving colleagues the opportunity to optimise their work-life balance

  • Paid carers leave: offering additional paid leave to carers

  • Carers Passport: linked to a colleague’s profile to inform managers about their personal situation so appropriate support can be provided

  • Carers Flag: identifying and supporting carers in our customer database

  • Emotional Support: available 24/7 via our MyCare service

  • Supportive employee network; including a dedicated Teams group

  • Proactive wellbeing tools and webinars: Company funded Healthcare plan, wellbeing app, Lifestyle benefits and educational articles and events

This Carers Week, we’re also running a series of internal events for our colleagues, encouraging even more open conversations and thanking each and every one of our carers with a personalised thank you gift.  

The last twenty years have been a success for our Network – but there’s still more work to be done. Here’s to the next two decades! 

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