Nearly a third of working carers have not discussed their caring role in the workplace, with a quarter giving up their career completely because of how difficult it is to combine work and care.
Carers play a fundamental role in our society. They strengthen family ties and help loved ones have a better quality of life. While it can be greatly rewarding, carers tend to neglect their own needs especially if they don’t receive the required support.
It’s important that carers are supported while they are at work while they juggle their caring responsibilities. They may have excellent transferable skills that would be an asset to any workplace, including their flexibility and practicality. But carers don’t want to be treated as a special case. Instead, they prefer understanding from their managers and support in managing their caring responsibilities.
How to Identify Carers
Who is a carer?
A carer is usually responsible for supporting and caring for their loved ones who are older, disabled or in a serious condition. Some carers provide daily care at their home for several hours, while others may have to travel to support their loved one on a weekly basis. This may involve doing the weekly shopping, helping them with administrating medicine or managing their finances.
Many do not see themselves as carers
Identifying carers can be difficult. In fact, many carers do not identify themselves as carers (“I’m just a wife, husband, friend, neighbour”) and may not wish to raise this situation with their managers. Others may be reluctant to reveal this information for fear of being stereotyped.
Employers owe it to their employees to create a safe environment for carers to be open, so that they can receive the best support possible. From a business perspective, carers who feel supported by their employers are likely to be less stressed, resulting in greater job performance and increased commitment to the organisation.
Look out for sudden behaviours
In the workplace, there are a few signs to look out for that an employee may be a carer. They may frequently be adjusting their working hours, or attending many appointments. They may also seem distressed or anxious, a behaviour which is noticeably different from their usual self.
Displaying carer information
It can also help to display additional posters and newsletters on staff notice boards, outlining some of the work-related benefits that carers may be entitled to. Self-identification is typically the most likely method of identification for a carer.
Supporting Carers at the Workplace
To best support carers at the workplace, employers should strive for a comfortable and reassuring environment where there is no stigma attached to carers identifying themselves.
Here are a few ways to go about this:
Introduce a carers policy
It can be valuable to place a policy on carers to demonstrate your support to employees with caring responsibilities. This can outline the range of support the company can provide, including adaptable working arrangements and career breaks. The existence of this policy should be communicated regularly to provide continuous support.
Introduce a flexible working approach
Flexible working can help carers balance their caring and work responsibilities. This approach allows employees to adjust their hours or place of work to better suit their needs, so that they can continue to work effectively. It could also involve job sharing, part-time working, or moving them into a less stressful role for the time-being.
Every caring situation and job is different, so what suits to one person might vary to what suits someone else.
Carers’ support network
Understanding that they are ‘not alone’ is a crucial element of support. Employers can provide information to carers about existing workplace carer support groups and what external support is available. Even if this isn’t the type of peer support that carers want, signposting the support available can help break the isolation carers can experience. A great starting point would be to personally ask the carers what would work best for them.
Small changes can go a long way…
There are many ways employers can provide a supportive working environment for carers at their workplace. It doesn’t necessarily mean a major change in the organisation is required, rather a few small and simple adjustments can enable carers to feel secure and at ease at the workplace.
Working for Carers is a London-wide project that supports unpaid carers, aged 25 or over, to move closer to employment. The project is led by Carers Trust and delivered by its network of partners across London. Working for Carers is funded by the European Social Fund and The National Lottery Community Fund. Contact Working for Carers on 020 8868 5224 Ext 218/208.