Carers UK has partnered with Centrica to try and help one million carers stay in or return to work by 2020.
The energy and services company estimates that UK businesses could save up to £4.8bn a year in unplanned absences and a further £3.4bn in improved employee retention by adopting flexible working policies to support those with caring responsibilities.
Centrica has changed its carers policy giving employees more paid leave, without using annual holiday allowances, to meet their caring responsibilities.
It will now offer ten days paid leave, which can be taken at any time, to all its carers followed by another ten days that can be taken if matched with annual leave. For instance, if a carer needed two weeks off to care for a relative they could take five days from their carers leave allowance and five days from your annual leave allowance.
The policy is being rolled out globally by the company.
Both organisations are calling on the government to introduce five to ten days of mandatory paid carers leave for all employers.
According to Carers UK, the number of people balancing care responsibilities with work has now grown to over five million people from three million in 2011. However, demands of caring mean that 2.6 million people have been forced to stop working altogether.
Iain Conn, group chief executive of Centrica, has written to the bosses of the UK’s 100 largest employers to encourage more support for carers and to open a dialogue sharing best practice and experience.
Helen Walker, Carers UK chief executive, said: ‘More than 600 people give up work every day to care for a loved one, often taking with them skills and years of experience. Whether looking after a partner receiving hospital treatment, or supporting parents to live independently at home, a right to five to ten days paid care leave could make all the difference to a member of staff juggling work and care.
‘It’s important now more than ever that the government and employers support the rising number of carers to remain in work. It makes good business sense and helps families who are caring. The consequences of failing to do so are huge.’