Coventry Building Society’s paid carers’ leave initiative, which launched in July 2018, enables all 2,500 direct employees working across its 70 branches and six head office sites to take up to three days of paid leave a year to accommodate caring responsibilities.
Lucy Becque, HR director at Coventry Building Society, says: “Financial worries add to carers’ worries, so [we are] trying to make sure we recognise that there are times in life where employees need additional support from us. If we made that unpaid, we might resolve a worry on one side because we provide them with time, but create a worry on another side because of financial concerns.”
Coventry Building Society already offered staff a formal flexible working policy, to facilitate changing their hours on an ongoing basis, and an informal approach, enabling employees to take ad-hoc time off for occasions such as school sports days; however, the organisation wanted to do more to ensure carers had the support they needed.
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“Quite often, they’ve already used holiday, they’ve used up their time in lieu, so really [employers] are putting somebody in a position where the only option open to them is to take unpaid leave; that often adds to their burden,” Becque explains. “We were trying to make a policy that doesn’t just sound nice, but actually is accessible to everybody. If it’s unpaid, realistically it’s only [available] if [employees] can afford to take it.”
Since its implementation, 70 employees have taken a total of 90 days of paid carers’ leave. More than half (56%) of this has been to attend a child’s first day at school.
Becque notes that the policy has succeeded in providing more balance across the workforce; whereas the existing flexible working arrangements were better suited to head office employees, 62% of those who have taken paid carers’ leave are in customer-facing roles at the building society’s branches.
The paid leave initiative was launched as part of an annual wellbeing week. “We see it first and foremost as a wellbeing initiative, because one of the biggest tensions is how [employees] make sure that [their] responsibilities sit comfortably between home and work,” Becque says.
She continues: “Ultimately, a carer already has obligations on them and additional pressures; if [we] add financial pressures to those, [we are] making their life that much harder. It is making sure that we are there for our employees when they need us. It sends a strong signal in terms of how we want to be viewed as an employer.”