Firm taps into carers pool

A pilot project to recruit people with caring responsibilities by utility
group Centrica has led to 40 of the 50 trainees gaining permanent jobs.

The success of the Manchester-based scheme has led to a second project in
Cardiff and a nationwide initiative has been launched to encourage employers to
follow Centrica’s example.

Launching the initiative by the Carers National Association, HR director Richard
Bide said Centrica is the first public limited company in the UK to develop a
carers policy in 1998.

He said, "That experience of developing a policy was quite instructive.
All the supervisors swore blind that there was not a need for a policy.

"But when we spoke to carers they said they did not feel comfortable
about talking to managers about their caring responsibilities at home. When
they did, the managers were not universally responsive."

Centrica advertised for people who were either disabled or had caring
responsibilities to work as New Deal trainees in call centres.

Bide said, "In retrospect it makes perfect sense. Call centres are
ideal for carers as the hours are infinitely flexible.

"I am proud of the staff we have recruited and the work they are doing
for us. I am also humbled when I hear of the roles they perform for their loved
ones."

Bide added that carers are hard to recruit because they tend to be isolated
and have often taken a decision to stop working because of the inflexibility of
prior commitments.

He said, "If you are a carer you develop a very complex skills set.
Carers are an untapped pool of talent but are difficult to find."

John Wilkes, director of the Carers National Association, Scotland, said,
"The business benefits of supporting carers are well proven, with improved
retention and reduced recruitment costs."

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