Coventry Building Society introduces paid carers’ leave to mitigate financial worries

Coventry-Building-Society

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.

“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.”