I am sure that you’ll agree with me when I say that your people are your biggest asset and that if you look after them, they will look after your customers and your business. In this current economic climate it is more important than ever that we attract new talent into the workforce, and retain skilled and experienced employees to increase customer satisfaction, improve productivity and cost effectiveness.
Alongside this we have an ageing population and an ageing workforce which means that there are more people who need constant personal support and therefore more carers to look after them. The majority of these carers will be amongst your most experienced employees. Three million carers juggle a paid job with caring for someone who is older, disabled or seriously ill. In all likelihood we will all, at some point in our lives, become a carer and it isn’t until that happens that you realise how hard it can be.
Caring is unpredictable; it can happen overnight or gradually and it can be short or long term. Without the right support at the right time carers will buckle under the pressure and something will have to give – and it is usually their job. A recent public poll found that a staggering 2.3 million people had left the workforce to care.
Policies and practices that support carers are therefore crucial to the resilience and success of your business. However, these support mechanisms need not be complicated or costly. It is about knowing your employees and working flexibly with them to find solutions. A small change in working hours or access to a private telephone can make all the difference to both the carer and your organisation. Ultimately it makes business sense to care for carers.
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.
That's where Employers for Carers can help. We came together as employers, big and small, private and public sector, who believe that supporting carers is good for business. I know this to have been absolutely the case over the last 10 years at British Gas. Joining Employers for Carers can help your organisation identify the needs of carers in the workplace, to outline the business case for their support and to provide practical and sustainable ways in which you can support them and their managers.
Thanks to the trailblazing work of the previous chair, Caroline Waters, and Employers for Carers, the landscape of carers and employment has changed irrevocably from 10 years ago. The forum has led the way in promoting effective workplace practice to support staff with caring responsibilities – demonstrating the real business benefits of better engaged people, lower recruitment costs and turnover, and retention of talent and experience. Now looking forward to the next 10 years there is much that we must – and can - do to realise and build on this legacy. This is indeed an agenda whose time has come.
I hope you will join us as we continue to explore ways to support and engage with the ever growing number of carers in our workforce.
Ian Peters, Chair, Employers for Carers and Director of Customer Facing Strategy at Centrica, parent company of British Gas