Don’t lose your working carersAll employees deserve to be supported by their employers to ensure they have a good work-life balance. But how much extra support should you provide for working carers, whose working day doesn’t end when they leave the office?
A working carer is defined as someone who is in full or part-time employment, who also provides unpaid support, or looks after a family member, partner or friend who needs help because of their age, physical or mental illness, or disability1.
One in eight people are working carers. But working and caring alongside each other can be very difficult, and in fact one in five carers end up stopping work2.
Here are some ways you can provide extra support for your working carers to ensure they stay happy, healthy and motivated at work.
Flexible working for carersCarers have to juggle their working day with providing care, and so it’s likely that on some occasions they will need time away from work that might be unplanned or last minute.
In the UK, any employee can request flexible working after they have worked for your company for 26 weeks (the rules are different in Northern Ireland). However the Work and Pensions Committee has published a report recommending that working carers should have the right to request flexible working from their first day.
Some companies offer different kinds of flexible working for all of their employees. Rather than having a strict nine to five day, if an employee gets their work done, timescales are more flexible. In addition if an employee needs time off, but it’s not enough to add up to a whole day or even a half day of annual leave, they can make up the time later.
Internal trainingIt’s also important to ensure that your other employees are trained on how to support working carers. Line managers will provide initial support to carers, particularly when they need time off to provide care, or to arrange flexible working hours as discussed above. Therefore, it is managers that need to be aware of who the carers are in their teams, and the problems they face day to day, so that they can provide appropriate support.
Caring can also be emotionally draining and stressful for your employee. So it’s a good idea to train staff on how to identify signs and symptoms of stress and mental ill health. This means that any employee experiencing problems can be identified, and the right support can be provided before their health deteriorates.
Only a third of employers have a policy in place to support for working carers3. You will likely have benefits in place for your employees, which enable you to offer support, such as:
- Employee Assistance Programmes
Many companies have Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs) that could offer counselling for your working carers if they feel stressed or overwhelmed.
- Unpaid leave
You could also offer additional unpaid leave for carers so that they can manage their responsibilities.
- Financial support or education
Although unpaid leave may be vital for them, carers may find this difficult financially, especially alongside their caring responsibilities. So you could offer some kind of financial support for carers, or even financial education to help them manage their finances and prepare for unexpected difficulties.