Are you caring for the carers in your team?

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Do you have a carer on your team?

Classed by the charity Carers Trust as ‘anyone who cares, unpaid, for a friend or family member who due to illness, disability, a mental health problem or an addiction cannot cope without their support’, it’s estimated that one employee in eight has caring responsibilities outside of work.

Whether it’s looking after an elderly parent, critically ill partner or child with additional needs, caring for someone can be extremely hard - and even more so while holding down a job.

Because of our ageing population there are more people who need care, which means the number of working carers in the workforce is on the rise too. Here are some ways for your business to support these employees. 

Be proactive about flexible working 

Anyone who’s worked for your business for more than 26 weeks has the right to request flexible working.

But for any carers on your team, consider proactively offering them flexible working arrangements if it’s appropriate for your business.

Being able to work from home, work different start or finish times, do flexitime or compress their hours might better suit their responsibilities outside of work.

Showing employees you’re working to come up with practical solutions is a good way to support them in the workplace. 

Try to accomodate short-notice leave

Research shows that one in six carers has needed to take time off work or work irregular hours because of their caring responsibilities.

The law states that employees are allowed to take a reasonable amount of time off work on an unpaid basis to deal with an emergency involving a dependant

But many carers have more urgent - or extended - situations requiring short-notice leave. Going beyond the statutory entitlement and being flexible about leave is a way to help employees when they need it. 

Help managers understand caring responsibilities

No member of the team has more impact on how supported an employee carer feels at work than their line manager.

Not all managers will need training - some may well have first-hand experience of how tough it is to juggle outside responsibilities with work - but others will benefit from it.

Not only is it helpful for managers to have enhanced understanding, but they can also feedback to a wider team and encourage a supportive attitude among colleagues.

When it comes to training, consider issues like:

  • What caring actually is
  • Why it’s important to support carers
  • Employers’ legal - as well as moral - responsibilities towards employee carers
  • How to identify employee carers
  • Tips on communicating sensitively with carers 

Introduce a carers policy

All the tips above are positive ways to support employees with caring responsibilities. Putting a carers policy in place goes one step further and is a way to document any practical arrangements your company has set up for carers.

In 2014, the Centre for Economics and Business Research found that 21% of carers give up work or reduce their hours, which costs businesses in England £1.6 billion.

Making it clear to carers what help they can expect from you as an employer can help: it may reduce stress, lower absenteeism, and boost commitment to your organisation.

Its 2016 report Creating an enabling future for carers in the workplace, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) found that nearly two fifths of UK employers don’t have a policy to support working carers or even plans to develop one.

It also showed that a carers policy impacts on how supported people feel at work. Some 45% of employees thought that their organisation’s support for carers had made a difference to workplace culture. This figure rose to 66% in organisations with a carers policy.

As we see so often at HR GO through our work helping candidates find the right roles, good employers look out for the welfare of their staff.

So recognising employees who are juggling work and care and how this impacts on their life isn’t just the right thing to do on a moral and ethical level. It may also help your business in the long term.

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