Centrica - Supporting carers

The Championing an Ageing Workforce Award, Winner, 2015

Centrica has supported its employees to combine work with caring responsibilities, which has helped it attract and retain a diverse and talented workforce.

What the judges thought

  • Clear metrics were in place to show where the programme had an impact.
  • The programme is embedded into the culture of the business.
  • The programme was reviewed by all key stakeholders, and had sponsorship from the very top; there was smart thinking in at the beginning and all the way through.

Employee and business impacts

  • Enabled employees to recognise themselves as carers and come forward for support.
  • Provided practical workplace support through flexibility and carers' leave and peer support through the employee-led Centrica carers’ network.
  • Signposted employees to external support organisations, including Employers for Carers and Carers’ UK, and the British Gas carers’ network.
  • Better engaged staff are better engaged and absenteeism has been reduced, saving around £4.5 million.
  • Reduced recruitment costs and turnover.
  • Retained talent and experience, saving around £2 million.

In brief

Centrica logoCentrica predicts that with an ageing population, 60% of its 36,000 strong workforce will be carers at some point in their working lives.

With research showing that working carers are five times more likely to experience stress and unplanned absence in unsupportive environments, Centrica has created a culture which helps employees combine work with caring responsibilities. 

Options offered to staff include up to a month’s paid leave, altered working hours, mentoring, line manager training and a 1,000-strong carers’ support network.

By supporting its carer workforce, Centrica has engaged and retained the talent it needs to thrive - saving £4.5 million in absenteeism and £2 million through retention costs.

The story in detail

An inspiring, supportive inclusive carers policy which is forward and external looking, setting the benchmark for carers' programmes to follow in an area which is so critical in the context of ageing population.

- Helen Rosethorn,
Founder and consultant, It Takes People, Chair of judges
An ageing population means it is likely that at least 60% of Centrica’s workforce will become carers during their working lives. Research has shown that in an unsupportive environment, working carers are five times more likely to experience severe anxiety or stress and consequential unplanned absence. One in five working carers in the UK is likely to leave work altogether.

With this in mind, the company decided to build its skills and culture to support employees through caring episodes, to help retain and engage their talent, knowledge and skills. 

Giving carers flexibility at work

It offers a wealth of options for those juggling working life with caring for an older, disabled or seriously ill family member, partner or friend. These include up to a month’s paid leave or altered working hours. Centrica has also set up a carers’ support network which has attracted 1,000 members from its 36,000-strong workforce.

The programme is managed by the HR department. As well as direct support for carers, it includes line manager training and the development of a mentoring scheme. Managers are given training and information on caring, the difference between caring and childcare and internal support for carers. Through this, Centrica aims to develop behaviours which build a carer friendly working environment.

Leading the debate

The company has had a long association with Carers UK and is a founder member of its Employers for Carers forum. The programme is championed by the Managing Director of British Gas (a Centrica businesses) who also chairs the Employers for Carers leadership group. Centrica was also one of the first organisations to adopt Carers UK’s Jointly app, to help its employees coordinate care for a loved one, purchasing 1,000 licences for the app.

Centrica believes that there is a direct link between engagement, performance and retention. By supporting carers, the company has engaged and retained the high quality knowledge, skills and talent the organisation needs to thrive. It has saved an estimated £4.5 million in unplanned absenteeism and £2 million through retention.

What Centrica's Managing Director said                                                             

“Policies and practices that support carers are crucial to the resilience and success of our business. However, it is not only carers who need support – managers need to be aware of the issues working carers face, and to understand what is available to balance the needs of the business with those of the carer and other members of their teams. It is about knowing your employees and working flexibly with them to find solutions. At Centrica we strive to provide practical and sustainable ways to support carers and their managers.” - Ian Peters, Managing Director, British Gas and Chair of Employers for Carers