In 2018, my partner Caroline returned from work feeling “a little odd”. Numbness had spread down the left hand side of her body and she was struggling to co-ordinate her walking. Although she could still speak, and elevate and maintain her arms, she rapidly became more unstable. So we called for an ambulance, suspecting she had suffered a stroke.
By the time the ambulance arrived, Caroline could not walk, and although her grip was strong, she could not feel or control it. She was rushed into hospital where she immediately underwent tests…and so began the longest and most stressful week of her and my life.
First thing the next morning, I contacted my line manager and function manager at Leonardo. Without pausing, they told me to take the time off, not to worry about anything to do with work, and to focus on Caroline and support her whilst she was ill. Any associated bureaucracy could wait, they said, explaining that “we would deal with the paperwork later”.
Over the following 48 hours, Caroline stabilised and remained in hospital, though no formal diagnosis was forthcoming. Scans showing lesions on her brain suggested she had Multiple Sclerosis (MS), but it would be another 18 months before this was confirmed and medication started.
While Caroline stayed in hospital, I returned to work where I found comforting and sympathetic ears to talk to. This came from my line manager, function manager, Occupational Health and my colleagues. I could not have asked for more kindness and support when I needed it most. My short notice days off were approved quickly, whilst not impacting my annual leave which would be needed later.
Additionally, I was able to manage my own time in order to best support Caroline. This was long before custom working became an option. The loan of a laptop allowed me to work from home as and when I could or needed to, and this support from Leonardo became an absolute lifeline to me. I was able to set up a working schedule of my time on site and at home, with the understanding that until Caroline was back on her feet properly, I could change at short notice.
Caroline slowly regained her strength over the following months, enabling me to work towards fully returning to working on site. However, over the course of the following year, she had two significant relapses. Once again, the company and my colleagues provided immeasurable support, allowing working from home on a regular basis and reducing my pressure at work by supporting the spreading of my workload.
Leonardo’s introduction of custom working has made a significant difference to anyone with caring responsibilities, allowing them time and capability to support their loved ones. This new approach is supplemented by the Employee Assistance Programme, which is a lifeline for new and experienced carers, and a font of knowledge and support.
This is the third time in 20 years where Leonardo has gone above and beyond what it says in the company policies, to support me; not just as an employee, but as a person and a carer.