Following on from a discussion from the last members networking event in November, we hosted a splinter session for employers with a significant number of front-line staff for whom flexibility can be a challenge. It was wonderful to see a range of faces from different organisations and sectors, including emergency services, retail, local authorities and government departments.
The session was designed to give a platform to those who are directly experiencing the challenges and creating the solutions, so the floor was quickly handed to Michael Price and Janice Ratter from Royal Mail to provide some context for how and why this session has come about. They both noted that they have found that Royal Mail front-line staff struggle to get away easily if they have caring responsibilities, despite there being a good network of comms across the organisation. Implementing a Carers Passport is currently being considered.
Simon Bampfylde from London Fire Brigade was the next to speak. He highlighted the importance of line managers, emphasising that their understanding is crucial to support for working carers. LFB has a flexible working policy, which has been extended to operational staff, and the team are working hard to make sure senior managers and operational decision-makers are aware. The organisation also regularly signposts carers to the resources provided by Carers UK, specifically the EfC Digital and Digital Resource for Carers platforms, and Simon was keen to note how instrumental these resources have been.
Jo Austin from HSBC shared that one of the company’s success stories has been a series of virtual ‘coffee with a carer’ sessions; recently front-line colleagues have started to attend these, and the message is starting to spread. Finally, Tadala Phiri from Network Rail spoke about an internal, SharePoint-style site, which will serve as comprehensive support space for working carers. She mentioned that feedback from front-line workers has indicated that they feel out of the loop on certain subjects, so more direct ways of contact have been explored, e.g. using the payslip portal to share information.
Following these insightful presentations from our guest speakers, a discussion with all participants prompted questions around identifying carers, a topic which will be explored in more depth at the next EfC Members Networking Event on 21 April.