November 24, 2017
According to Carers UK, three million people in the UK combine unpaid care responsibilities with paid work.
This figure is ever rising with an ageing population and many people living and working longer, to the extent that the current overall number of carers (6.5 million) is expected to increase by 40% in the next 20 years.
With an increasing number of employees assuming responsibility for the care of elderly relatives and friends; with others falling part of the ‘sandwich generation’ essentially balancing work with caring for older family members and their own children, it’s naturally important for employers to provide as much support as possible to those effectively juggling work with caring.
Why is providing support so important?
Without support and understanding at work, carers can suffer from high levels of stress and exhaustion, the effects of which can be damaging both in the workplace and at home. In some cases, juggling caring and work commitments can prove so difficult that some employees may feel they have no option but to give up work completely, often to the detriment of both the employer and employee.
So what can employers do to support employees who care for family or friends?
Speak to employees
Employees may be reluctant to discuss personal circumstances (i.e. caring responsibilities) and meeting regularly with staff on a one to one basis may provide the opportunity they need to share information, which will be useful in agreeing any arrangements or changes that will work for the business and the employee.
Flexible working arrangements are essential to help carers meet their work and caring responsibilities. Flexible working practices such as considering a variation of working hours, part-time working or working from home (on a regular or occasional basis) and/or enabling carers to leave work promptly as needed could be mutually beneficial. Flexibility is very much a two way process. An employer who can offer flexibility will often benefit from reciprocal flexibility and an increased level of commitment from employees, particularly as employees are often appreciative of any flexibility afforded to them by their employer. Equally, allowing as much flexibility as possible, whilst of course balancing what is reasonable and permissible operationally, may help retain an employee who might otherwise resign or whose performance may otherwise suffer.
Develop a policy to recognise and set out carers' needs and the support available to them. As a minimum, provide appropriate policies and guidelines on arrangements for taking paid and unpaid leave - a short period of leave (whether paid or unpaid) to consider or arrange
alternative care arrangements could be all that is needed to support, and
retain, a valued employee.
Keep in mind…
Irrespective of personal circumstances, it is well documented and widely acknowledged that a work-life balance is a key motivator (and in many cases, a necessity) for most employees and employers who promote a work-life balance can benefit in a raft of positive ways.
About the Author
Kelly Pashley-Handford is a senior HR professional who has worked within legal services for over twenty years. She is fully CIPD qualified and adept at advising businesses on HR issues both strategically and practically.
Kelly provides both in-house and outsourced HR support on a diverse range of HR issues including redundancies, grievances and disciplinary issues, recruitment, training and organisational change. She has worked with small and medium sized organisations in Chesterfield and the surrounding area, giving her a valuable local perspective on the business challenges facing local clients.