Supporting carers



BT recently won one of the first Women’s Business Council awards for its work for carers. spoke to a spokesperson to find out what it is they do for carers and why it matters. What are the main challenges in implementing successful policies for carers?

BT: At BT we find it’s not so much about creating or implementing new policies; it’s about looking at those we have and making sure the “lived experience” of them, by our people, is what we want it to be.  We realise that any of us could become a carer in an instant.  So we also have a “Helping You Care” booklet available on our intranet, specifically for people who might not have any direct caring responsibilities at the moment, but to help them understand what those shape responsibilities might take and how to prepare for them.

WM: Have other employers sought your advice or been interested to find out what you do?

BT: We regularly speak to other organisations about BT’s Carers Passport and how it could work in their business and for their people.  It’s such a brilliant, simple idea.

The BT Carers Passport can be completed by anyone who has caring responsibilities they believe could have an impact on their ability to work currently or at some point in the future. The purpose of the BT Carers Passport, amongst other things, is to capture:

      1. The nature of the caring responsibilities now
      2. Their likely shape in the future
      3. The adjustments and flexibility that the individual needs
      4. The action to take if the individual needs to leave work suddenly
      5. The agreed communication between the individual and BT if the individual is unable to come to work.

WM: How does the BT Carers passport work?

BT: Anyone with caring responsibilities can download a copy of the Carers Passport from the intranet.  They can either complete it ahead of their meeting with their line manager or do it together with the line manager at the meeting.  Once they have come to an agreement about any reasonable adjustments that might be needed, they both sign it and keep a copy.  It is then reviewed every three months or more often if that’s what’s needed.

WM: Has it been modified since it came in?

BT: We are constantly receiving feedback from our people about the Passport and regularly review it to make sure it’s up to date and relevant.

WM: Many staff who have caring responsibilities do not see themselves as carers so how do you reach them?

BT: Our intranet site has a lot of information about caring.  Our Carers Network is open to carers and those who currently don’t have any caring responsibilities but who want to learn more and support those people who do.  This can be especially helpful for line managers.

WM: What kind of support is most popular with BT employees?

BT: There are many different kinds of support available to our people – our Employee Assistance Programme, flexible working patterns, the Carers Passport.  Our managers are able to use a variety of tools and processes to support someone who has caring responsibilities.

WM: How important is senior management awareness and support for successful carer policies?

BT: Vitally important.  We have a senior Carers Sponsor who sits on our Diversity & Inclusion Steer Co, representing the views and opinions of carers across the business.

WM: How important is training for managers in supporting employees with carer responsibilities?

BT: All our managers go through a variety of training programmes to make them the best people managers possible.  For our people to be their best – at work and at home – they need to be able to bring their whole, authentic selves to work, which includes sharing with their manager any caring responsibilities they may have.  This then allows the manager to work with that individual to make sure they can balance their caring responsibilities with their work commitments.

WM: BT has a lot of remote working staff – how do you create strong networks for carers in those circumstances?

BT: Our Carers Network is a vital link between the business and our carers.  There is a discussion board on the network allowing people to share experiences and ask questions of other carers across the business.

WM: What kind of leave policies do you have for carers?

BT: We don’t have specific leave policies for carers.  Our leave policies can be used at the discretion of our managers.

WM: What do things like the Women’s Business Council award mean for BT?

BT: It is fantastic to have our work acknowledged by the Women’s Business Council.  We are very proud of the Carers Passport and know that it has help a number of our people balance their caring responsibilities with their jobs and start meaningful conversations with their managers.



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