Up the line – the importance of executive championship of carers | March 2017

Our most recent members’ networking event was hosted by Nationwide on Wednesday 15th March and followed on from our event in March 2016 (also hosted by Nationwide) where we discussed how helping line managers to be aware and supportive of their team members who have caring responsibilities can help deliver motivated teams and business results. One year on, the theme continued as the focus moved to the importance of gaining top-level support to champion the needs of working carers and how this can transform workplaces and empower line managers.


Kelly Higson, Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Manager at Nationwide welcomed assembled members and guests and the event was chaired by David Grayson, Professor of Corporate Responsibility, Cranfield School of Management and Chair of Carers UK. David updated the group with the latest news from Employers for Carers including:


New EfC members since the last event in October: British Museum, Department for Transport, Financial Conduct Authority, Help for Carers, Government Legal Department, Historic Royal Palaces, Slough Borough Council, Suffolk County Council, Surrey Downs NHS CCG and Wellcome Trust


Department of Health projects: Employers for Carers and Carers UK have recently been commissioned by the Department of Health to deliver a new project to extend our ‘umbrella’ model more widely across England in support of the forthcoming new National Carers Strategy. As part of this, we are welcoming ten new umbrella member organisations. Alongside the umbrella membership project, we are also running two other projects, also commissioned by the Department of Health. One is to develop and pilot a model Employer Recognition Scheme to encourage and assist employers to support their staff who are carers. The other is to develop an e-learning resource to help carers to identify their transferable skills, build their confidence, and support them whether they are returning to work, taking up volunteer opportunities or further learning. We will be keeping our members posted as these projects develop throughout the year.


National Carers Strategy: due to be published later this Spring and again we will keep updated.


Carers Week is 12th – 18th June and again focuses on building carer friendly communities – including workplaces. Several members have already planned events, and where possible, the EfC team will support your workplace events (on a first come, first served basis!).


Claire Ball, Diversity & Inclusion Manager at Age UK, spoke about how a personal experience of caring can become professional (for example, a senior Policy & Campaigning employee with caring responsibilities advocating on external issues internally) and how carers and caring are linked to their organisational aims and mission. Claire made the point that seeking senior level championship at the right time can be key to change – in this case, when a senior champion is looking to leave a professional legacy before moving to a new organisation. 


Kelly Higson, Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Manager, Nationwide gave a summary of their work over the past year, including a survey of line managers, inclusion of Carers demographic into their HRM system, line manager support, providing advice and guidance on local support and initiatives such as allowing working carers to have an assessment of their needs during work time. Nationwide is in the process of appointing a new Executive Champion for carers and Kelly emphasised that Nationwide recognise the importance of having the right champion, at the right level, who can open doors, influence and keep the discussion at that senior level live.


There followed a lively discussion around the qualities that make the best senior champion – someone who will challenge the existing agenda. James Mummery, TFL said that they had both an MD sponsor who met with the Carers Network quarterly, and a Director level sponsor who they met with monthly – thereby achieving ‘more than one bite at the cherry’ and FCA’s Sebastian Raff said that having a director level champion was a great motivator for their carers network. Following further discussion points including expanding carers networks, carers leave and carers ‘holiday’ schemes where additional days of leave can be ‘purchased’, Laurence Beckett, People Partner Retirement Solutions, UK Life, Aviva highlighted emerging issues from the recently launched Fuller Working Loves strategy including the launch of the Older Workers Business Champion. Aviva’s work includes the ‘no desire to retire’ scheme, surveys and focus groups with aged 50+ employees, mid-life career reviews and their carers pilot offering intensive support over a period of 6 months to a ‘control group’ of employees in Bristol.


Following a final discussion, David Grayson as Chair summarised the three main learning points for attendees to take away from the meeting as:

  1. Develop case studies relevant to your own work environment
  2. The importance of partnership working with D & I groups and networks, employee engagement and CSR teams
  3. The value of having senior level championship – and even better to have champions at different levels of seniority

Many thanks to Nationwide for their kind hosting. If your organisation would like to host a future event, please do contact the Employers for Carers team on 020 7378 4956 or info@employersforcarers.org