Kent Fire and Rescue Service – supporting Carers in their workforce

Kent Fire and Rescue Service (KFRS) provides an emergency service to the whole of Kent and Medway, employing 1500 staff including firefighters, community and business safety staff and support workers ranging from accountants to engineers. As well as supporting local residents with fire safety advice and free safe and well visits for the people they care for, KFRS also support Carers who work for them.

“Supporting the well-being of our staff is crucial.  Not only does it help people lead happier lives but it improves productivity, reduces sickness and creates a culture of care and support.  Well-being becomes more threatened when people are going through difficult times or are Carers looking after others who need their emotional and physical support.  The strain on Carers is becoming more recognised and as an employer we are helping our staff to manage balancing their job and their caring role with both compassion and practical tools such as Carers’ contracts.”

Ann Millington, Chief Executive, Kent Fire and Rescue Service

A flexible approach for employees who are Carers

KFRS is particularly conscious of the increasing number of “sandwich generation” staff in their 40s who may be dealing with school age children alongside caring responsibilities for aging parents and has introduced a flexible approach to employees who are also Carers by offering support packages as part of their health and wellbeing policy.  Rather than having a set number of Carer’s days for staff caring for disabled, elderly or sick relatives, KFRS encourages line managers to adopt a flexible approach that acknowledges the pressures Carers may be under.

KRFS ‘Carers’ Contracts’ give line managers and staff the chance to discuss needs and reach an agreement that covers practical arrangements and long or short term adjustments to allow staff to combine work with their caring responsibilities. This typically includes flexible working and time off work with pay – so reducing sick leave and having a positive impact on well-being.

KFRS is a member of Carers UK and Employers for Carers and has a staff intranet Wellbeing Zone with signposting and information specifically for Carers.

Amanda - KFRS employee and Carer

 Amanda works for Kent Fire and Rescue Service, has three children – one with health problems - and is also a Carer for both her parents

“Being a Carer is not a path I would ever have chosen. Going to work each day was sometimes the only normality in my life, even with the stresses of working in a demanding job, but I was worried that the challenges of being a Carer might be the end of my working career. I was grateful to have an understanding employer. KFRS allowed me to work part-time for the first couple of years after my daughter’s birth, with unpaid leave for the months we spent in hospital with her.   With flexible hours I could start late, leave early or move a lunch break to cover appointments for my daughter and parents’ care.  I was also given a Carer’s Leave Allowance so I could save some of my leave days rather than using them all on hospital visits. With help from my employer I can still be Amanda who works for KFRS - rather than just being a Carer.”