How Aviva supports working carers

Carer handsWhen the team at Aviva set out to explore the needs of carers in their workforce, one particular insight really struck home. Conversations with carers revealed that the need to attend regular hospital appointments or deal with other day-to-day issues was eating into their annual leave. This then made it harder for them to get a much-needed break.

As Sarah Poulter from the company’s Media Relations Team explains, “We tested our carer policy on our Bristol team, asking for honest feedback about what carers needed most. And this was something that came out as a major issue. Juggling a job with caring is tough enough on its own; if anyone needs to make the most of their time off, it’s a carer. So we included 35 hours of paid leave per year in the policy, for planned events, to help them keep their holiday entitlement intact.”

A SUPPORTIVE, OPEN CULTURE, UNDERPINNED BY A RAGE OF BENEFITS

The resulting policy has now been rolled out across the company, delivering a range of benefits for carers. For example, as well as the allowance for planned events, carers are entitled to the same amount of paid leave for emergencies. They can also request up to four weeks unpaid leave per year, in the same way that parents can.

And an equally important outcome has been the increased openness and acceptance of the challenges carers face, according to Sarah. “We know that carers can be tempted to keep their situation secret, fearing that they will be judged as being less committed than their colleagues. That can have a serious impact on their personal wellbeing, as well as their ability to perform at work.

“In contrast, our focus on carers has helped create a culture in which people with extra responsibilities feel they can bring their whole selves work. They know they won’t be penalised; they can get the support they need, whether from their trained line managers, our Employee Assistance Programme or our Carer’s Network. And their careers can thrive as a result.”

THE ROLE OF FLEXIBLE WORKING IN SUPPORTING CARERS

Aviva’s carer employees also benefit from the company’s proactive approach to flexible working. That can mean informal support, such as adapting their hours on an ad-hoc basis to fit around appointments. It can also mean exploring more formal part-time or other flexible options if their circumstances require it. And this isn’t just the case for current employees; it’s available for new recruits too.

“At Aviva we advertise all our roles as having flexible options, and specifically mention that we’re open to adapting our schedules to accommodate carers. We’re also really up front about supporting carers on our website.

“There are around 4 million working age carers currently in the UK – and the number is only likely to increase. So it’s important to reassure talented people who happen to be carers that they will be welcomed and encouraged if they come and work with us.”

So what advice would Sarah give to a carer who is looking to develop or restart their career?

“My son is on the autistic spectrum, so I have some personal insight into what it means to be a working carer. I believe you need to be able to be yourself in order to succeed. So do some digging into any companies you might want to work for; if they won’t be willing to support you, they’re not right for you.

“I’ve really reaped the benefits of Aviva’s pro-carer approach. For example, I’ve been able to spend six afternoons attending a course to help me and my son, without having to sacrifice family holiday time. I know that my colleagues trust me to do a good job; I also know that my son can trust me to be there when he needs me. As a working carer, it doesn’t get much better than that.”

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