GSK has given its employees more control in how they deal with their caring responsibilities. Nick Martindale examines how the approach has worked.
For global healthcare firm GSK, flexible working is the key to helping individuals cope with any commitments they may have outside work, including – but not restricted to – caring responsibilities.
In reality, this means employees can control both the hours they work and from where they work. “We have smart working so nobody is expected to be in the office all the time,” says vice president for global employee relations, inclusion and diversity Martin Swain. “We want to institutionalise it in the culture, as opposed to having policies and interventions.” This is more difficult in its manufacturing facilities, he admits, but it is possible to offer staff flexibility around shifts, as well as emergency time off when needed.
Alongside this, there are a range of initiatives that also help carers in the workplace, including unpaid leave, tax-free holiday where people can buy up to ten extra days a year, and flexible retirement, which means people can retire for a period and then return to their jobs.
This latter policy has already helped one lady cope with caring responsibilities without having to end her own career, says Swain. “Both her elderly parents were in hospital at once,” he says. “She was 60 and we allowed her to take her pension. Unfortunately, both her parents later died but she came back and still works for us three days a week.”
The business has also tried out employee networks but Swain says these have not taken off in the past. “We are looking at whether we can build and encourage a disability network founded around the ageing workforce,” he says. “If that takes off, I would very much encourage that to take on the banner of disability and caring responsibilities, because it’s about disability in its widest format.”
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