How to support carer employees

carer employeesAn ageing population and shifting demographics mean that three out of five of us will end up caring for someone at some stage. Indeed, the number of carers in the UK is set to grow from 6 million to 9 million over the next 30 years, according to a Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) report*.

Carers are responsible for supporting relatives or friends who are disabled or chronically ill and unable to care for themselves. Unsurprisingly, juggling caring duties with work responsibilities can take its toll. Here we take a look at the impact of caring and working and discuss some strategies you can implement to ease the burden on carers in your workforce.

The impact of juggling caring with work
We believe businesses need to understand the demands on their employees’ time outside of the workplace, as these can have direct implications on their work. For example, if an employee is worried about their caring commitments and struggling to balance it with their employment, they are going to be stressed, less focused and not as efficient.

One in five* UK carers admits their work has been negatively impacted as a result of a caring responsibility. As such, it’s not unusual for employees to resign in order to meet their caring commitments; one in six* working carers in the UK have resigned or reduced their hours in order to free up their time to care.

How you can help
There are various strategies which you could use to alleviate some of the pressure on working carers. All of the suggestions outlined below will help foster a culture of support for working carers, thus making their lives easier and helping the business to retain talent in the process.

Be flexible
Flexibility is a lifeline for working carers and so it makes sense that this is where many employers choose to focus their efforts. The most common form of support offered is flexible leave arrangements (49%)* and flexible working arrangements (48%)*. Some flexible working options which may appeal to your employees with caring duties include job sharing, compressed hours or flexible start and finish times. For carers who require more leave, paid and unpaid leave is another option. Businesses offering this can use a combination of annual leave, special leave or compassionate leave to assist.

It’s also worth thinking about adopting a flexible approach within the workplace as well. One example of this could be relaxing rules around mobile phone use during the working day; this would relieve employees of any stress associated with missing an important call about their loved one. Another example could be providing the employees with a laptop to allow for remote working when required.

Offering this type of flexibility demonstrates understanding and a commitment to your staff, which in turn will ensure better levels of staff retention and loyalty.

Create a supportive culture
Just 13%* of line managers are trained to help employees who are carers. Making sure that managers understand the responsibility of caring and know how to effectively communicate with their employees who care is vital. Once the line of communication about the topic is open, both parties can be honest about what they need and how it can be achieved. Through effective communication the employee will feel less guilt around their caring duties and less of a pull between work and family.

Some other ways you could encourage a supportive culture are to give carers access to counselling facilities. If the company is big enough it could even warrant setting up an internal network so carers can have conversations with their peers. This could be achieved through physical meetings, social media groups and on-site expert seminars.

Have a clear policy
Only one third (34%)* of employers have a formal, written policy or informal, verbal policy in place to support working carers. 38%* of employers do not have any such policy and neither do they have plans to introduce one. One straightforward way you can help your employees is to create and circulate such a policy, if you don’t already have one. This will reassure staff and start the relevant conversations.

Help with information and advice
Understanding how the care system works is incredibly difficult unless you have direct experience. Issues such as managing the costs of care, finding reliable care and monitoring how existing care is progressing are critical for carers.

As part of Benenden’s business healthcare offering, employees have access to independent care advice from our partner Grace Consulting. Your employees will benefit from expert advice and support to help them resolve their care issue and make the best decisions. This could be anything from discussing the pros and cons of residential care homes to receiving a detailed report on a certain care provider.

 Introducing the right support for carers can prevent you from losing valuable talent and inspire loyalty. It’ll also send out a powerful message that you’re there to support employees when they need it, which can help contribute to a more positive and productive working environment.

This content originally appeared on Benenden’s workplace hub where employers can find a range of related articles to help with their health and wellbeing strategy.

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