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Jeanie helps Marcus’ wishes come true for 2015 as local business recruit their first guide dog

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The New Year brought new changes for Autonet Insurance as they recruited their first ever guide dog, Jeanie. Jeanie has been sourced and trained by Guide Dogs UK and has joined the business to support Marcus Pinnock so he can continue to work successfully as a sales agent at the Burslem based van insurance broker.

Marcus joined Autonet Insurance in June 2014. Suffering from the degenerative eye condition called RP (Retinitis Pigmentosa), the company were keen to find out what adjustments they could make to help Marcus in the work place.  Human Resources and Marcus met to discuss his needs and the impact his sight loss had at work and at home. From there a checklist was created and lights, magnifiers and a specialist chair were purchased.  The IT department were also keen to help and installed the enhanced IT package that Marcus uses whilst on his computer. All of the adjustments made ensured that Marcus would have the same standard of work life as his colleagues.

Autonet contacted Guide Dogs UK for advice on how to best facilitate a guide dog in the work place.  Cheryl, a guide dog mobility instructor, met up with Marcus and his team leader to agree what was needed. A larger desk was moved in to provide additional room for Jeanie’s bed, it was placed away from the glare of the large glass windows but still next to his team – Autonet were keen that Marcus should not miss out on the “sales experience” and both Marcus and Jeanie have equal opportunities in the work place.

Penny Wardale Director of HR said: “Autonet believes that a diverse workforce and inclusive workplace culture enhances our ability to meet our customers’ needs and treat our customers fairly and therefore can only bring benefit to our business. In line with this, and with our values of loyalty and trust, we work hard to create a working environment that is open and supportive and where individuality is embraced.

“Consequently, since the day we first discussed bringing a guide dog into the business with Marcus we were behind him 100%. This was something we had never done before so we worked closely with the guide dogs association in order to make the adjustments needed to create an environment that was comfortable for him and Jeanie. We were pleased with how easy this process was and how quickly Jeanie has been integrated into the workplace. We are also delighted at the enthusiastic support Jeanie and Marcus have had from all our staff.”

Marcus is 1 of over 4,700 responsible owners of an incredible guide dog in the UK. It is estimated that as few as two per cent of blind or partially sighted people use guide dogs to help aid their mobility. All 700 staff members within the business were briefed about the new recruit and were happy to follow all guidelines in place to accommodate Jeanie and to make her feel welcome. They were offered an opportunity to raise any questions and concerns regarding the new recruit, such as allergies, fear of dogs and cultural influences, none were raised.

Marcus Pinnock said: “I have the eye condition called RP which is a degenerative and so far incurable eye disease. This is especially affected by light, both bright and dark. Before I had Jeanie, my guide dog, life was quite difficult and very challenging to say the least. I waited patiently for two years to get her and it was most definitely worth the wait. Guide Dogs UK are an invaluable charity who excels at what they do; I would have waited as long as it took to feel the freedom I have now. She is my four legged guardian angel whom I could not now imagine being without.

“Jeanie accompanies me wherever I travel. Autonet Insurance, where I work, has been exceptional in accommodating Jeanie and meticulously planning safety procedures, and break times to fit around Jeanie. Jeanie sleeps most of the time under my extended desk in her warm bedding, as well as guiding me in and around the call centre. I consider myself fortunate to work for a company that epitomises forward thinking and that are open minded enough to employ a disabled person. We work together to resolve any obstacles both I and Jeanie may face and Jeanie is now a loveable member of the Autonet family - long may our partnership reign!”

Ian Donaldson, Managing Director of Autonet Insurance shares his thoughts on the new arrival “To have Jeanie at the call centre is a unique opportunity and a positive step for Autonet. It proves that we have taken the lead when it comes to showing our continued commitment and support to each and every member of staff”.