Ahead of new legislation to support carers to take unpaid time off, Virgin Media O2 is revealing how its dedicated policy to support carers with paid leave is helping its employees be there for their loved ones when it counts, with more than 1,000 hours of leave used last year.

Through its gold standard carer’s policy which goes beyond the new rules that come into effect on 6th April, Virgin Media O2 offers employees with caring responsibilities five paid leave days per year. The leave, introduced in 2022 as part of a package of best-in-class time off policies, is flexible and can be taken as 10 half days.

Around a fifth of Virgin Media O2 employees self-identify as an unpaid carer, which is someone who offers practical, emotional support or hands-on care for a loved one, friend or neighbour who is older, disabled, seriously ill, experiencing mental health conditions or addictions.

Virgin Media O2 was one of the first employers to offer paid carer’s leave and, in 2023, employees collectively took more than 1,300 paid days off work to support a family member or friend, such as taking them to a medical appointment, helping them with treatment, or providing more practical assistance such as shopping or managing finances.

The company has also introduced an ‘Adjustment Passport’ where an employee only needs to detail the support they need to balance their job and caring responsibilities once in a simple document, rather than needing to repeat the process multiple times if they move roles.

It forms part of Virgin Media O2’s diversity, equity and inclusion strategy, All In, where the company is working to become a more inclusive and equitable organisation.

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Virgin Media O2’s carer’s leave was created in partnership with its dedicated employee network for carers, We Care, and recognises the importance of creating an environment where carers can thrive in their role, while also having the time and flexibility to support their loved ones or friends when they need them.

It comes as new research reveals two thirds of Brits couldn’t afford to take unpaid time off work if they were a carer, while 63% wouldn’t want to use their annual leave to care for someone. Instead, almost 7 in 10 (69%) people believe businesses should provide paid leave for employees who are carers.

Saara Mahomed works as a customer advisor at an O2 store on Oxford Street, London. Virgin Media O2 carer’s leave policy helped Saara to care for her elderly father before he passed away, and now to support her mother who experiences severe arthritis.

Saara said:

“I used my leave when my dad was unwell and had to be taken into hospital at short notice. Having the leave meant that I was more available to liaise with doctors as well as be able to transport my mum to the hospital if she wanted to see him.

“Having these extra days are a great relief for me and my family — giving me time away from work so I can be there for my family. It means my family know they can rely on me.

“It’s such a great support to know the company helps in this way. As an unpaid carer, having support is unheard of, so Virgin Media O2’s carer’s policy has been great.”

Nisha Marwaha, Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Virgin Media O2, said:

“As a one of the UK’s leading employers, Virgin Media O2 is proud to support our employees who are unpaid carers with paid time off.

“We know how vital this policy is for the 2 in 10 unpaid carers across the company, helping to alleviate some of the stresses they are experiencing, so they can focus on providing practical and emotional support, rather than worrying about taking time away from work or not being paid.

“It means we’re creating a culture where our unpaid carers can perform their best at work and also show up for their loved ones or friends when they need them most.”

Journalists can contact the Virgin Media O2 press office on:
press@virginmediao2.co.uk 01753 565656
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