The George Institute for Global Health has earned their first SAGE Cygnet Award, recognising their efforts to improve workplace support for carers.

A key challenge

In 2018, following a staff survey showed that almost half of female respondents had a caring responsibility, The George Institute realised how much of an impact caring was making on their staff.

Only 60% felt the organisation provided enough support for parents and carers, and many (38%) of those who had taken a career break to care for dependents believed it had had a negative impact on their careers.

The George leapt into action and took a range of interventions to improve workplace opportunities ad entitlements for carers on staff.

Support for parents

Over the following 6 years, the Institute improved their paid parental leave (PPL) entitlements multiple times, leading them to double the leave made available to staff. They made PPL for primary carers gender-neutral, meaning any parents could be the “primary” carer, and offered the leave immediately after probation (rather than withholding PPL until after a staff member had been employed for 12 months).

One staff member explained that the removal of the PPL qualifying period “enabled me to take the time I needed to adjust to my new family life (something I had wanted for many years), build a wonderful connection with my daughter and be better prepared for returning to my new role.”

The Institute also created a Manager Toolkit with information on leave entitlements to more clearly lay out manager responsibilities and encourage staff to understand and access their entitlements.

Onboarding and return to work

The organisation also focussed on improving connections between the workplace and those taking carer’s leave.

They introduced an automated process to prompt managers and caring staff to attend keep-in-touch meetings, and consulted with staff to create new return-to-work supports and resources, including onsite facilities for the pumping and storage of breastmilk.

Where next?

These interventions led to an increase in staff uptake of carers’ leave, and when asked if the institution provides “a supportive environment for carers”, those with caring responsibilities were likely to agree.

However, the work pointed to a raft of further areas for improvement.

Reviews found that a small number of staff took additional unpaid partner leave, half of whom were women, who took 87% of the total unpaid partner leave. This pointed to a potential unmet need for partner leave, particularly for female partners, and better integration with parental leave.

Focus group discussions also highlighted staff preference for more paid leave and ability for two partners to take primary caregiver leave at the same time. Female carers in research roles also raised specific concerns about returning to work part-time and the impact of this on their career progression, pointing to a need for supports that are fit for purpose to address role-specific feedback.

Read the full application here.