Why improve support for carers? Building the case for action
Aviva can see very clear business reasons to improve their support for working carers. It reduces sickness absence and improves retention and productivity, all of which significantly impact business costs. Supporting carers is part of Aviva’s wellbeing strategy. They found that for those with carer responsibilities this can be a stressful time and so by introducing a Carer Policy this would help carers to manage that stress.
One in nine people in work in the UK is a carer. At Aviva, that ratio equates to around 1,800 employees.
“So many carers do leave work. If you have a choice between staying in work and caring for someone you love, you are going to care for the person you love, even if that has significant financial implications. A carers policy with flexible working will help us retain our talent.” – Andy Briggs, CEO of Aviva UK Insurance
The initiative is sponsored by Andy Briggs, CEO of Aviva UK Insurance and Christine Nellis, People Director. It is led by Mary Bright, Senior Manager of Andy Briggs’ Office, and Chair of Bristol Carer’s Network. Getting senior people on board was easy due to their personal experience and emotional understanding of caring.
Consulting with employees and piloting solutions
Aviva used multiple methods to understand more about the needs of carers and their managers in the organisation. These included:
- A pilot project in the Bristol office, to understand more about the needs of carers and their managers and to inform the development of a Carer Policy.
- Engagement with employee representative bodies who were very supportive of a focus on carers.
- Use of expertise from external organisations such as Carers UK.
- A review of the questions being asked of HR in relation to carers.
- A review of policies and offerings for comparable groups, such as parents, to see if any could be replicated for carers.
- A survey of 1,000 consumers across the UK to understand their caring commitments.
Aviva found there were some key areas they could focus on to help carers to balance work and caring commitments:
- Having a published Carer Policy that was clear about the support offered to carers and called out Aviva’s commitment to this group.
- Providing additional paid time off to enable carers to accompany dependants to planned appointments. Planned appointments can be a big part of some carers’ lives.
- Providing this time off in hours, rather than days. Aviva found that people often needed just a short time away from work (for example, an hour) so people don’t generally need full days off.
- Carers said they would value the opportunity to take a longer period of unpaid leave for the occasional times that they need to focus 100% of their time on caring.
- Providing the opportunity for carers to provide to support for one another through employee-led carer networks.
- Publicising some of their existing offerings in the Carer Policy, for example, the ability to take paid leave in an emergency and the access that colleagues have to a confidential external employee assistance programme.
- Additionally, they found that managers preferred training and support on specific situations they were managing (in relation to carers) rather than a formal training programme.
The new policy and support now includes:
- 35 hours of paid time off to deal with emergencies and an additional 35 hours of paid time off for planned appointments.
- Information about flexible working and how it can be practiced effectively.
- Right to request longer-term leave. The four weeks per annum (18 weeks maximum overall) has been opened up to both parents and carers.
- Signposting to Employers for Carers portal, as Aviva is a member.
- A carers and parents community made up of colleagues called ‘Aviva Carers’. Building on the success of the Bristol pilot for carers, this global network will provide the opportunity for people to mutually support each other; allowing them to maintain fulfilling careers at Aviva while caring.
- More flexibility in bereavement leave. Sadly, caring often ends in a death, and people may need flexibility and an individualised approach to taking leave, for both practical and emotional reasons.
- Access to an employee assistance programme.
- Managers can contact Aviva’s Leader Advice team as and when they need training.
- The policy doesn’t require proof of caring as it can be difficult for informal carers to provide this.
Raising awareness and communicating the policy
Communications were shared with all colleagues, highlighting Aviva’s commitment to carers. They included a personal story of a colleague with caring responsibilities. They had a great reaction internally with colleagues showing their support of the policy (including from those who currently have no caring responsibilities).
Their internal awareness raising illustrates their commitment to supporting carers, and importantly, gives permission to both carers and managers to take a person-centred, flexible approach to managing caring responsibilities and wellbeing.
In 2018, Aviva will…
- Roll out a Carer’s Passport. This can be used by carer’s to facilitate a conversation about their needs. It can be very helpful if carers change role or managers.
- Monitor and improve their management information on carers. For example, by using the annual employee survey to analyse the carer population’s well-being and engagement.
- Keep talking to their carer network to ensure the policy is fit for purpose.