Hertfordshire County Council has offered a range of support services and benefits for employees with caring responsibilities since 2002.
It is already ahead of the requirements due to be brought in by the Work and Families Act in April as it allows all staff to request to work flexibly.
Other support tools on offer include: a carers’ support network, facilitated by an independent charity, which meets every other month, discounted nursery places, childcare vouchers offered through salary sacrifice, an employee assistance programme that offers information and advice for carers, and up to five paid days emergency leave a year.
Jo Brown, senior HR officer, says the policies were established because of the benefits they bring to the organisation. “If you look at our workforce profile, over 80% is female and we work in a difficult recruitment market. A lot of people live in Hertfordshire but travel into London [to work], so we need to make sure that we are attractive as an employer to as broad a base of people as [possible].”
The council also runs an annual carers’ conference attended by around 80 staff. It uses this as a platform to inform carers about the policies it has and to gather feedback. One year, this resulted in a training CD-Rom being developed for line managers after feedback suggested that staff didn’t have a very good understanding of what it means to be a carer.