What can employers do to support Carers in the workplace?
1 in 9 workers will combine working with caring for a family member, partner, friend or neighbour. As an employer, recognising that there are Carers in your workforce and supporting them to manage their caring responsibilities can have a positive impact on their lives.
Juggling the demands of caring for someone and work can be challenging at times. Many Carers are invisible in the workforce, reluctant to discuss their personal situation and unaware of the support that may be available to them. In fact, many Carers don’t use the term Carer to describe themselves (“I’m just a wife, husband, parent, friend, neighbour”) and may not wish to divulge their situation with their employer for fear of discrimination or stigma.
Changing demographics and an ageing population mean that 3 in 5 people will end up caring for someone at some point in their lives. The number of Carers in the UK is set to grow from 6 million to 9 million in the next 30 years, so the number of Carers in your workforce is likely to increase.
As an employer, supporting Carers in your workforce can:
- reduce stress and health issues
- improve job performance
- improve job satisfaction
- increase commitment to the organisation
- decrease staff turnover.
Kent Fire and Rescue Service employs 1500 staff across Kent. As an employer, they are helping staff to manage balancing their job and their caring role through a range of initiatives.
Kent Community Health Service NHS Foundation Trust is a large NHS Trust with 5,000 staff. KCHFT has introduced a number of initiatives to support Carers both as an employer and as a service provider.
Kent Police has profiled the support Carers can access and reviewed the policies and practices in place to support Carers in their workforce. In 2017 they launched their five point Carers’ plan.
First steps to becoming a Carer-friendly employer
- Quote Carers specifically in your policies and other documentation.
- Nominate a key contact to lead on Carers issues in your workplace.
- Set up - with input from Carers - a staff Carers group or forum to allow Carers to meet together occasionally for mutual support, information sharing and to raise the profile of caring in the organisation. Depending on the type and structure of your organisation, this might be a face to face or a virtual group. Allow time for the Carers you employ to attend the group.
Offer practical support through your employment policies
- Caring for someone who has an illness, disability, age related difficulty or an addiction is often less predictable than child-care. Flexible working policies need to include the flexibility to change arrangements as caring responsibilities change. They also need to recognise the possibility of emergencies arising.
- Make sure your flexible working policies are compliant with current law, and allow as much flexibility for change as is consistent with business needs.
- Review all your employment policies to ensure they are ‘Carer-friendly’. For example, does your policy on stress management recognise the complex links between work related and home related stress?
- Organise training for managers in Carer awareness.
Ask Carers what will help them to combine work and caring
The people who know best what will really make a difference to their ability to do a good job for you whilst keeping up their caring responsibilities are Carers themselves. Surveys, focus groups and staff Carer groups are all useful ways to find out what the Carers you employ would most value. There are often small and inexpensive things employers can do to help such as:
- allowing employees to leave mobile telephones on in meetings in case of emergencies
- flexing start and finish times to help people deal with caring commitments before and after work
- allowing people time and access to a telephone to check on the person they care for from time to time while working.
Once you’ve identified the various ways your organisation will support Carers, write a Carers employment policy, publicise it and monitor it to make sure it is effective.
Provide information about support available for Carers
The negative impacts on health and well being due to caring can be reduced if Carers have access to good information about services and support available.
- Publicise the Kent Carers Matter website kentcarersmatter.co.uk, to your staff - link to it from your intranet if you have one and include information in your staff newsletter.
- Distribute the Kent Carers Matter leaflet to your staff.
- Set up and provide the resources to support a Carers' Group or forum for staff.
- Get in touch with the Carer organisation in your area to help you run Carer information events or to get help with making your workplace more Carer friendly.
Resources for employers
Employers for Carers
Resources and toolkits for employers including how to develop a Carer employment policy. Some services are only available to members, but Employers for Carers also offers training and consultancy.