The Carers Leave Bill – Is It Enough for your Employees?

Recently, there has been a huge step in the right direction for the support of those in the workplace with caregiving responsibilities. The Carer’s Leave Bill, which grants ‘unpaid carers’ a week of unpaid leave has been approved and backed by the Government.

According to The Carers Trust, an unpaid carer is anyone who cares, unpaid, for a friend or family member who due to illness, disability, a mental health problem or an addiction cannot cope without their support.

Caring for someone can take up a few hours each week, or 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The support provided by unpaid carers is varied and might include:

  • Helping someone wash and dress themselves and with other personal care.
  • Housework, food shopping and picking up and administering medication.
  • Taking someone to hospital and GP appointments.
  • Providing company and emotional support.

However, despite the celebration of much needed recognition and support for unpaid carers, many have been left confused by the Government Bill, and questioning whether this is enough.

Why?

The Carer’s Leave Bill fails to specify how exactly individuals go about obtaining leave. It also doesn’t stipulate guidelines for businesses in terms of implementing the bill. Consequently, implementation is likely to differ from employer to employer.

Seniorcare by Lottie is the UK’s only dedicated eldercare employee benefit solution, and they provide support and range of services to help the UK’s largest organisations support employees who have elderly loved ones in their lives. In light of this new legislation, Seniorcare Lead, Ronan Harvey-Kelly, shares the importance of creating clear guidelines around unpaid carers support:

“It’s great to see the support the Carers Leave Bill has received from the Government and businesses across the country. However, rather than the solution, this should be seen as the first step in the right direction in providing practical support for those juggling caregiving responsibilities in the workplace.

With an ageing population, access to appropriate eldercare is one of the biggest challenges we’re facing as a society.  It’s estimated that 5 million people in the UK are juggling caring responsibilities with work – that’s 1 in 7 of the workforce, and we need to do more to support carers in the workplace.

What more can be done?

1. Access to clearer policies

Both employers and employees must have access to clearer policies around unpaid carers leave. This should outline clear technicalities all employers can easily follow to support unpaid carers in their workforce.

When drafting internal policies, it’s important that each business takes into account the needs of the employer, and the employees. It’s also essential to communicate with the whole team on what it is to be a carer, and to define this within the body of your policies.

2. Acknowledge the other strains on carers

Similarly, whilst granting unpaid leave to carers is a huge step forward – this is not enough. Caring for a loved one and juggling other commitments such as work places a huge strain on carers.

Not only are unpaid carers at greater risk of experiencing mental health concerns, such as stress and anxiety, but a number of carers face financial worries and concerns. To fully support unpaid carers it is important to consider the benefits of providing mental health support, as well as access to paid leave.

3. Accept that the eldercare journey is not linear

Often, the amount of time and level of support required by an elderly loved one will increase over time. In the long term, employers should consider allowing unpaid carers a longer amount of time away from work (above the one week currently granted) in order to support their loved one.

Outside of the Unpaid Carer’s Bill, employers can also provide practical support to their employees who are managing eldercare responsibilities. Offering additional benefits such as flexible working arrangements, guidance on career breaks and mental health support can go that extra step further in supporting employees.

4. Keep carer policies and legislation at the top of the agenda

Reviewing unpaid carer policies and legislation to support caregivers in the workplace must be placed at the top of the agenda for both the Government and business leaders. Looking past the importance of unpaid carer and eldercare support in the workplace, is not a luxury we can afford.

5. Provide practical resources

Being a carer and juggling full-time work is a challenge. Care homes or in-home care can be a great alternative that ensures a loved one is supported. For instance, if an employee’s elderly relative requires 24-hour care, a nursing home can provide this with trained staff.

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However, it is often time-consuming and difficult for an employee to seek out these support resources while juggling a full-time job. Seniorcare by Lottie can act as that support service on behalf of your employee.

If your organisation would benefit from Seniorcare by Lottie’s expertise and want to find out how our services can support your employees, please feel free to reach out via our website.