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Published: 16 Jun 2015

Centrica, Winner 2015, The National Grid and Carers UK Best for Carers and Eldercare Award

Centrica recognises that carers make a substantial contribution to its business and remains committed to providing an inclusive and diverse workforce that works well for its customers. The company believes that supporting carers reduces turnover, cuts recruitment and training costs, retains talent and experience, builds resilience and improves employee engagement and wellbeing. Centrica estimates cost savings of £2.5m through increased staff retention and £4.5m through reduced unplanned absenteeism. Centrica’s offering to carers is well rounded, thorough and based on a real understanding of what its carers want as well as what will enhance its business.

Centrica has a well-established, employee-led carers network, which has been active since 2005. The carers network provides a valuable source of support and guidance and enables carers to share information and experiences. It is sponsored by the Managing Director of British Gas and Centrica  believes that senior sponsorship has been crucial to its continued success and sustainability.

Centrica also has an innovative carer’s leave policy, which offers up to one month matched paid leave per year to help with caring responsibilities, for example, to nurse someone after a serious illness or discharge from hospital, or to help someone move into residential care. Carer’s leave is in addition to dependent and emergency leave and there is no service requirement to be eligible. The policy includes close friends as well as family members, which makes the definition of carer all-encompassing.

At Centrica, flexible working is a day-one right, enabling employees to balance work with their caring responsibilities. Employees experiencing difficult family issues can seek professional advice from independent counsellors through a 24-hour employee assistance programme, which is also available free to family members.

In December 2014, Centrica launched a new online portal for working parents and carers, giving them easy access to a range of family-friendly resources and services, including information on back-up eldercare, a webinar series and specific resources for working carers.

Centrica has also launched a pilot training programme to up-skill line managers in managing flexible workers and in particular people with caring responsibilities. The pilot has been a success, a key finding being that managers feel more confident about having effective conversations regarding caring. Centrica is now investigating a wider roll-out which would incorporate the training into existing line manager training modules.

Centrica’s approach to carers has had a real impact. As one employee reports: “I have gained significant benefit from the approach Centrica takes to people with caring responsibilities. From the company carers policy and framework, through the Centrica carers support network and my line manager support, I have been able to work in a flexible way, including the use of carer’s leave, that has enabled me to balance complex caring responsibilities while delivering on my work activities. Without the understanding and support of the company my caring responsibilities would be difficult to balance with my workload and both would suffer. I really appreciate the flexibility and support I have been given.”

Centrica works closely with Carers UK and is an integral part of the leadership group of Employers for Carers.