Written by KATHRYN HATHAWAY
As part of Carers Week 2019, read our guidance on the ways you can best support employees with caring responsibilities whilst also considering the impact to your business. I believe by offering support and flexibility to your staff and encouraging them to have a balance between their work and caring responsibilities it will help them feel more engaged, motivated and loyal to your business.
We spoke with Kerry Hearsey, CEO of The Princess Royal Trust for Carers in Hampshire, and asked for her thoughts on the difference a supportive employer can make to an employee who is a carer outside of work. Kerry commented: “Every day 6,000 people start looking after someone and they become a carer. Currently there are approximately 3 million people working and caring and this figure is set to increase. By becoming/being/having a carer friendly employer with relevant carer friendly policies you will be supporting the 1 in 9 people in the workforce that are in that role. This helps retain a skilled and loyal member of staff who may have become a carer and it stops them from becoming one of the 1 in 6 that have to give up work or reduce their hours to fulfil their caring role.” Kerry went on to say “good practice includes reviewing current policies as well as signposting carers to both workplace and external support.”
It’s important to recognise that employees who are carers have statutory rights but also that supporting them to manage their caring responsibilities can help:
- Reduce stress and improve job performance
- Improve job satisfaction
- Improve commitment to the organisation
- Decrease staff turnover
Please see the guidance below on the statutory and contractual rights of a carer within your workforce .
Statutory rights for carers
All employees have the right to take a ‘reasonable’ amount of time off work to deal with an emergency or an unforeseen matter involving a dependant (which includes a partner, child or parent, or someone living with them as part of their family or even someone who relies on them for help in an emergency such as an elderly neighbour).
In addition, all employees have a right to request flexible working after they have worked for the same employer for 26 weeks (providing they haven’t already made a flexible working request within the last 12 months).
Examples of flexible working include: home working • part-time working • term-time working • flexitime • working compressed hours • job sharing • shift work
Contractual rights for carers – please note these are at your discretion, as the employer
Contractual rights are the policies that you can offer in addition to the statutory rights, demonstrating any additional support you offer your employees and setting out the practical arrangements. It’s worth considering that 1 in 9 employees is a carer and so it could be worth introducing your own carer’s policy.
Here are some suggestions of additional considerations to the statutory rights that already exist.
1.Allow carers to work flexibly
Providing flexible working is one of the key ways to support carers in the workplace.
We’ve already mentioned that all employees can request flexible working after they have worked for the same employer for over 26 weeks, but you can go beyond the law and open up the application process earlier to benefit carers.
Examples of flexible working arrangements that could benefit carers include giving time and private space to make personal telephone calls, flexible start and / or finish times, homeworking and part-time working.
2. Be flexible when carers need to leave at short notice
The very nature of being a carer means that emergencies can arise at short notice. Enabling carers with flexible arrangements such as saving up time in lieu of these instances can be helpful at a carer’s time of need.
3. Offer flexible leave
Flexible leave can help a carer to manage a crisis or when they need to take a longer period of time off work to care for someone.
While all employees have the right to take a reasonable amount of time off work for dependants on an unpaid basis, you can offer carers dealing with a crisis support that goes beyond this statutory entitlement; so for example, employers could give them the ability to make up the time at a later date, or offer carers the opportunity to take an extended period of leave.
4. Provide information and peer-to-peer support
As well as making sure everyone in your organisation is clear about the support you offer carers, setting up a carers support group can be invaluable to those with caring responsibilities.
5. Train line managers to support carers
People managers are essential to making a carer’s policy work and are also likely to have an impact on a carer’s ability to balance the demands of work and care, so training them to adopt an understanding attitude and knowing what support you are able to offer carers will go a long way to gaining trust in the workplace.