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Parenting Talent Merkle

Adland needs to better accommodate carers to retain talent – here’s how


By Ellen Ormesher, Senior Reporter

June 16, 2022 | 6 min read

After Dentsu UK announced that it would be launching its first-ever emergency caregivers policy, The Drum takes a wider look at the agencies implementing similar schemes, and asks why supporting workers with caring responsibilities may be the key to retaining staff during the talent crisis.

holding hands

Since the outbreak of Covid-19, 9% of carers have given up work / Image via Unsplash

According to Carers UK, around one in eight adults, or 6.5 million people across the country, are carers. Since the outbreak of Covid-19, its research found that 9% of carers have given up work. Furthermore, amid the cost-of-living crisis, over half (52%) say they feel anxious or stressed about their finances.

Employers, therefore, must face accommodating the talent – or lose it. For example, more and more working parents are being pushed out of adland due to the rising cost of childcare – caregivers of other kinds are also being neglected by the absence of accommodating policy.

Over at Dentsu, Sarah Painter, the vice-president of customer experience at Merkle, who was involved in the creation of its new policy, explains that its implementation “is such a relief to have in place.”

“While I always work flexibly to accommodate my caring needs, knowing this safety net is there eases the anxiety around combining caring and work. It gives me a chance to accurately log time off for appointments and gives me peace of mind that when the next emergency arises, I can put my full attention on my daughter’s needs.”

So what are other agencies doing to meet the needs of caregivers?

Bridging the gap

Historically, additional leave or accommodations for caregivers may have been tacked on to parental leave policies; however, this did not account for caregiver responsibilities for other family members or close persons.

As Charlie Glynn, UK people director at M&C Saatchi Group, explains: “While supporting parents is key, we know that many of our people have caring responsibilities for an older person, another family member or friend.”

Therefore a parent or carer working at M&C Saatchi Group, regardless of seniority or length of tenure, now has access to 10 free Back-Up Care Days per year, with replacement care for any children or adults they look after in the event that their usual provider is unavailable for any reason.

Using the centralized booking system developed with partners Bright Horizons, M&C Saatchi Group staff are able to access emergency care within two hours, whether they need in-home childcare, nursery care, a childminder, a holiday club, or an elder care specialist.

Meanwhile, while IPG does not have a separate caregivers policy, a spokesperson tells The Drum its Time off Work Policy includes a ‘caring for dependents and partners’ section that’s been in place for years.

For the purposes of the policy, ‘dependants’ include a spouse, a civil partner, a child, a parent or a person who lives with the employee such as a friend or roommate. Additionally, it includes any other person who would reasonably rely on the employee for assistance if they fell ill or were injured or assaulted, or who would rely on the employee to make arrangements for the provision of care in the event of illness or injury.

In the worst cases, in lieu of a flexible policy for caregivers, workers would have to utilize their annual leave allowance to attend to their caring responsibilities – contributing to burnout from not taking adequate time off to rest.

As Elaine Grell, chief people officer UK and EMEA at Ogilvy, explains: “Until now carers have had to use annual leave for their caring responsibilities, but now they can request additional leave to help them plan for their caring responsibilities in advance. With this planned time off they have greater choice in how and when they manage the often-unseen responsibilities that they may have.”

Grell also explains that Ogilvy’s recently increased flexibility for carers also extends to compassionate, annual and special leave for those who may, unfortunately, be experiencing domestic abuse.

“We have spent time updating our people policies and guidelines so that they reflect society today and modern families. They are now fully inclusive and support the life changes that our people may experience at the time when they need it.”

Dentsu and Publicis similarly implemented policies for workers affected by domestic abuse this year, and IPG’s parent/dependant policy also extends to allow workers to provide assistance when a dependant falls ill, gives birth or is injured or assaulted.

Paula Cunnington, Publicis Groupe UK’s chief talent officer, says “all these programs are underpinned by training and work to raise awareness of some of the issues affecting our employees. We know that now more people than ever are balancing their work responsibilities with caring responsibilities, and we’re doing some work to raise awareness of this across our business to ensure all our managers and teams are providing the same level of support to our caregivers.”

Eleanor Conroy, director of communications at Publicis, tells The Drum that since joining the company two years ago, she’s directly benefited from the support, having regularly had to take time out for hospital and other appointments – “and I know other people who have also benefited,” she says.

If you’d like to read more stories like this, sign up to The Drum’s Work and Wellbeing briefing here.

Parenting Talent Merkle

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