Simi Dubb, Director of Diversity and Inclusion at Centrica, on how the company is helping its staff look after loved ones – and saving money in the process
Download the Supporting Carers in the Workplace Toolkit for information and practical advice on how to support informal carers
Centrica has joined forces with Business in the Community (BITC) and long-term partner Carers UK to put a spotlight on the issue of supporting carers in the workplace. Together, we’re on a mission to encourage and help the business community increase support for working carers everywhere.
With an ageing population and rising retirement age, people are living and working for longer. As a result, more people are juggling work with being an unpaid carer for a family member or friend. The latest research from Carers UK shows that one in seven of the UK’s workforce are now unpaid carers. Worryingly, nearly half-a-million people have given up work over the past two years as a result of caring – that’s 600 people a day1.
Not only is this extremely problematic for individuals who suffer serious mental and physical health problems, as well as financial pressures from combining work with being an informal carer, it’s also a huge issue for businesses. The majority of carers are over the age of 45. Very often they are the most skilled and experienced staff in an organisation – the people businesses least want to lose. As employers, we must support our employee carers and older workers (as encouraged by BITC’s Age campaign) or we’ll keep seeing a decline in productivity and an exodus of talent from this crucial group.
Supporting carers has long been an issue we are passionate about at Centrica, which is why we recently announced a three-year partnership with Carers UK to bring a greater focus to this concern.
We have supported Centrica carers for the past 15 years. Not only do we believe this is this the right thing to do for our people, it also makes good business sense. 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 estimate that Centrica saves about £1.8 million a year by avoiding unplanned absences and presenteeism (working while unwell or not fully performing) due to caring responsibilities. We estimate further cumulative savings of £1.3 million through increased retention by supporting colleagues to stay in work while they care for loved ones. These figures are significant for us, but imagine if similar flexible working policies were adopted by businesses across the UK. Our estimates are that UK companies could save up to £4.8 billion a year in unplanned absences and a further £3.4 billion in improved employee retention by adopting flexible working policies to support those with caring responsibilities.
Creating a carer-friendly workplace at Centrica
Here’s a snapshot of the support Centrica offers to its carers.
- Paid carers’ leave for all: All employees can take up to six weeks paid carers’ leave, made up of ten days paid carers’ leave and two weeks discretionary leave matched with two weeks annual leave.
- Flexible working: Working flexibly, with the ability to discuss changing needs at the different stages of the care journey, is vital. We offer the right to request flexible working from day one, including reduced or alternative hours, as well as working from home where practicable.
- Carers’ employee network: A third of working carers feel lonely or isolated in the workplace. Our carers’ employee network offers vital emotional and practical support, from being there for a conversation to helping people find information and advice.
- MyCare employee assistance line: Free advice and assistance is provided by independent counsellors to employees and family members.
- Mental health first aiders: More than 300 mental health first aiders are on hand to provide a friendly face and encourage employees to open up and seek support. This is vitally important for carers, who might be experiencing mental health issues as a result of their role.
Strength in numbers
As a member of BITC, Centrica firmly believes in strength in numbers. We want to bring together employers who are already doing great things in this space, alongside others that want to do more, so that together we can explore solutions, share learnings and create a better environment for working carers everywhere.
We’d love to hear about what you’re doing to support carers in your workplace.
- Carers UK. Juggling work and unpaid care: A growing issue. Available at carersuk.org