EurWORK European Observatory of Working Life

Case Study: Care-related supports – Novartis, France


Organisation Size: 
Large (250+)
Private sector
Initiative Types: 
Hours reductionCare-related supportsawareness raising

Company / organisation name

Novartis France

Initiative name

Carer-friendly flexibility and care-related supports

About the company / organisation

Currently, the group Novartis is the world’s third-largest company in the pharmaceutical and health sector. Novartis has about 1,800 employees in France, 60% of whom are women and 37% are aged 50 years or older.

Novartis France aims to be a company that is engaged in citizenship. It takes a strong interest in the French healthcare system and in promoting its development. The Novartis Foundation was set up in 2006 to initiate and fund general interest projects concerning care. The purpose of these initiatives is to reach a better understanding of the relationship between dependent persons and their family and friends. The initiatives also evaluate the impact of these relationships on carers. The objective is to help carers, especially working carers, by developing a range of supports and services that can improve their daily lives. These services also raise awareness about the critical role played by informal care-giving within the family.

The initiative

In 2006, Novartis France launched an internal survey on the issue of working carers. A total of 600 of its employees took part. The results revealed that more than 40% had carried out care activities during the last five years. Of these, 15% were the main carer, a figure that rises to 24% for those aged 50 years and over. For 71% of carers, engaging in care activities involved daily contact with the dependent person. Finally, 40% of Novartis’ working carers feel that their caring duties have had an impact on their professional life.

In 2009, these results prompted Novartis to launch a set of measures within the company to provide more effective support to working carers. Novartis undertook a set of activities that lead to the publication of an internal document, Guide for Informal Carers, which was distributed to all employees. This uses the concept of a ‘care life cycle’ to describe how working carers in the company can address care-related challenges. Proposed measures are designed to support working carers at each stage of a typical care-giving arrangement.

The guide gives information and practical advice to working carers at each phase of the caring situation as it evolves. This commences with the point of diagnosis and continues up to the last stage of the illness of the person receiving care. Answers are given to the following specific questions:

  • How does one announce a caring situation to co-workers and the supervisor? Where can one access information and advice?
  • What are the rights of working carers at Novartis (e.g. statutory right for specific leave)?
  • How can working time arrangements be adapted and what kind of leave options are available to employees of Novartis?
  • How does one reorganise daily life to fit in care responsibilities? Which day-to-day supports and services are available?
  • What sources of financial support for care costs are available?

Working carers at Novartis benefit from a range of provisions, outlined below.

Annual leave: employees have a right to 27 days of annual leave. They are also entitled to a reduction of working time (RTT), up to a maximum of 14 days. This enables working carers to reduce their working time by up to 50%, when this is required.

Time credit: Novartis also offers staff the option of building up time credit by working overtime. Through this, they can obtain a maximum of 15 days leave over the course of three years.

A ‘credit-hours scheme’: this is made available by Novartis exclusively for working carers, and is fully paid by the company. Here, employees with care responsibilities are allowed to take two hours per month leave to make it easier for them to carry out their care activities.

Working cheque service: this provides staff with material and financial support for care costs. It is financed by the company, to a maximum amount of €900. Grants can be used to pay services from one or various existing social care providers.

Multimedia applications: Novartis has developed two multimedia applications which contain a wealth of practical advice regarding common problems faced by working carers. ‘The Virtual House’ provides information on how to reorganise the home, while ‘Menus and Health’ presents nutrition advice and information on diets adapted to certain wide-spread medical conditions.

Specific training module: Novartis has also developed, with the support of a professional training organisation, a specific training module for managers. The module aims to help develop a positive attitude towards working carers among staff, and to provide the skills needed for effectively supporting such employees. The training module was initially developed for the managers of Novartis, but it has since been made available to other companies as well. For this purpose, Novartis has started to provide inter-company training programmes. One outcome of this is that the module is now being used by the HRM department of EDF South-West, a large electricity provider.

Rationale and background of the initiative

As the third-largest multinational in the pharmaceutical and health sector, Novartis France has a strong policy on social responsibility. The company is engaged in a large number of social activities in the healthcare area. These range from financial supports, to programmes that aim to ease access to health rights, to initiatives that combat malaria in developing countries.

The company also wants to act as a reference partner for decision-makers and policy-makers with regard to current healthcare issues in France. As a socially responsible company, its work in this area is based on three pillars: commitment towards the patients, the environment and society, and the promotion of business ethics. The company’s work in supporting working carers and those they care for is an expression of these commitments.

In 2006, Novartis France set up the Novartis Foundation, with the goals of initiating, stimulating and financing projects that address all kinds of carers’ issues. The foundation deals exclusively with issues that concern people providing informal care to anyone who is dependent on this care.

Novartis has developed a set of initiatives for strengthening public awareness of and support to informal carers. In particular, three main activities have been launched.

The Observatory of the Family Circle: this aims at informing health policy makers about the difficult situations experienced by informal carers. The observatory engages in strategic monitoring, by collecting and analysing data on this issue. As a platform for collaboration, it develops networks and organises thematic workshops regarding carers’ issues. Over a period of two years (2008-2010), the Novartis Foundation conducted a national survey on carers’ issues, with the support of the consulting group BVA. The results of this national survey were presented during the First National Day of Carers in France, which took place in October 2010.

The Academy of ‘Proximology’ (the study of ‘proximity care’): this aims at raising awareness amongst professionals. It also organises specific training programmes for them, in order to better integrate the family circle in care activities. The academy also aims at raising awareness amongst the family members of the person requiring care regarding the importance of their caring role. Another aim of the initiative is to provide information to the general public. It regularly publishes a prospective review entitled ‘Réciproques’, as well as books aimed at different target audiences. The academy organises conferences and workshops on this theme in order to stimulate interdisciplinary, collaborative work.

The ‘Incubator of Initiatives of Proximity Solidarity’ aims at supporting the development of initiatives and innovative projects regarding all types of carers. To be eligible, a project must give evidence that it is an innovative project in this field. For this purpose, an online platform ( was developed for all kinds of carers. Within the framework of this support activity, in 2009 and 2010 the Novartis Foundation organised the first National Conferences of Proximology (an area of research that focuses on the relationship between a patient and their caregivers). These conferences aimed at opening up a debate about the place and role of informal carers in the French healthcare system. Workshops have been organised in several cities in France. The recommendations were presented in Paris in April 2010.

All these actions are coordinated by a board composed of twelve members, representing a variety of concerned stakeholders.

Results and assessment

As of yet, no assessment has taken place of the company’s initiatives to support working carers. This is mainly because the initiatives have only been in place for a short time. An assessment is planned for next year; the methodology has not been agreed on yet.

Issues, challenges and lessons learned

The Novartis General delegate who was interviewed for this study reports that working carers’ initiatives seem to be effective in reinforcing social cohesion within the company. He strongly believes that workers who feel supported by the company are more productive. One reason for this is that they are less burdened by worries concerning their caring duties. In order to encourage more companies to invest in initiatives for working carers, a key challenge is to make them aware that such measures do not only meet social obligations. They also make good business sense.

Up until now, initiatives and concrete measures for working carers only tend to exist in often limited large companies. This is because they have the financial means to develop them without having to rely on public subsidies. It appears that many smaller companies cannot to implement such measures support from the state. This is the case even if they are aware of the specific needs of employees who also have care responsibilities. According to the Novartis Foundation, national legislation should be modified to provide support to the large majority of companies who cannot afford to implement such measures.


Case study author:

  • Professor Gerard Valenduc, Fondation Travail, Université ASBL
  • Périne Brotcorne, Fondation Travail-Université ASBL

Contact persons:

  • Thierry Calvat (initiator in the framework of the Novartis Foundation), General Delegate, Novartis

Online sources:

Other sources, not available online:

  • Novartis. ‘Manuel du collaborateur aidant. Conseils et resources pratiques pour les salaries de Novartis Pharma qui soutiennent un proche malade ou dependant.’, Novartis 2009.

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