Published on in Responsible Business

Our #WorkYourWay promise is exactly that. We want you to work in a way that suits you. School closures and shielding requirements are placing high demands on time and wellbeing, especially for those supporting families and loved ones.

Juggling work commitments, childcare, home-schooling and home-life, as well as maintaining positive mental wellbeing feels like an impossible task. We forget just how many carers we have in the UK – as of 2020, there are around 13.6 million people with caring duties according to Carers UK.

To support carers who need to work but also manage these multiple responsibilities, as a one-off in 2020 we extended our carer’s leave by five days. This means that all carers – those with responsibility for little ones or other loved ones – can now take 10 days paid carers’ leave.

We wanted this leave to be used by anyone who needed it, when they needed it. And that’s what was front-of-mind when we implemented it.

We made it immediately available and encouraged employees to take the leave in whatever way suited them best – as one block, as half-days, or even as ad-hoc hours over the course of a couple of months.

Over seven months, 880 employees, including 309 women, took advantage of this leave, totalling an additional 2,965 days paid leave. But these carers are more than statistics – they’re unique individuals, and I wanted to find out how the additional carer’s leave has benefitted their different situations during the pandemic.

How the carer’s leave made a difference to individual lives

  1. Working and home-schooling

I spoke to my manager about using the leave as I didn’t want to use it in full days. We agreed I could use it in two hour blocks each day, allowing me to maintain my work while supporting my son with home learning. It made such a difference being able to give him one-to-one time without being distracted by work. I usually took the two hours from 11am so I could work during the morning and still be about for the afternoon. It also meant I felt the benefit of being able to keep working the majority of the day.

  1. Maintaining everyone’s positive mental health

My wife and I are Special Guardians for three foster kids aged 5, 7, and 9, plus we had our two children home from university due to lockdown.  I used the carer’s leave a day or a half-day at a time to help share the workload with my wife. This prevented burn out and maintained everyone’s positive mental health, including my own, during some very challenging times.  Home-life is incredibly busy and the carers leave was a lifesaver and helped with:

  • Home schooling – there’s lots of pressure from school to undertake specific tasks.
  • Ensuring everyone had regular exercise – taking the family for walks and playing in the garden.
  • Sharing the workload – doing housework and activities with the children.
  • Ensuring children had a change of scenery (lockdown permitting) – taking them to the beach or parks.
  1. The benefit of using this leave to focus on our family

My mum normally looks after my kids during half term, however she wasn’t able to because she was shielding. Knowing we would have a childcare problem we used the carer’s policy in the May half-term. This allowed us to focus on our family – it was a very special time despite lockdown. It made a massive positive impact.

The carer’s leave was already something available at Fujitsu as part of our aim to be an inclusive workplace. However, what the pandemic has shown us is that the standard five days we were previously offering carers were no longer enough for the times we find ourselves in.

Doubling our carer’s leave to ten days as a one-off has clearly been so beneficial for our employees during lockdown that we have renewed this for 2021. I firmly believe that businesses have a responsibility to ensure their employees are able to cope with life in and outside the workplace. And by helping employees to work in a way that best suits them, we can make this possible.

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