This year, Carers Week is running between the 7th and the 13th of June with a focus on making caring visible and valued. The 2011 census showed that 6.5 million people, or around 1 in 8, are carers, and Carers UK estimates that there are 13.6 million people caring during the pandemic. With such a large percentage of the population taking on this responsibility, it is important that they feel seen and heard – but what can employers do to ensure this is the case?
Be approachable and open - Employees are not legally obliged to disclose that they are carers, but creating a safe environment may give them the confidence to do so. Some employees may not even consider themselves to be a carer, but signs of distress or anxiety, as well as increased requests for time off or frequent adjustments to their schedule can all be signs that they are. Employers noticing such signs should take the opportunity to have a conversation with their employee to discuss, and make sure they are aware of the support available to them.
Consider offering flexible working - Legally, employees who have a minimum of 26 weeks’ continuous service have the right to request flexible working. Flexible working may include job sharing, part-time working, flexible hours or any other suitable arrangement. Discuss with your employee, take time to consider their individual circumstance and find a solution that benefits both you and your employee.
Support your managers - Your employee’s line manager will often be their first port of call, so it is important managers have the skills and understanding, to take time to train them on how to manage employees who may need extra support and make sure they are aware of the company’s position on caring. Carers in the workplace will appreciate a supportive manager, and may be more forthcoming with information about their position and how the business can assist them.
Establish a support network - There is a good chance that there will be more than one carer in your workforce (dependent on the size of your business). Putting in the effort to have an open culture in work surrounding care will help carers feel valued and connected to their colleagues. You may consider creating a support group so carers can chat about their experiences in person or online. It gets people talking, and lets carers know that you’re invested in their wellbeing.
Provide information - An employee may not feel comfortable talking to you directly about their caring responsibilities. In this case, it’s important for them to know where they can go to access further information. Carers UK and the NHS website are good examples of resources for carers. Ensure you signpost them to this material and reassure them, whether directly or indirectly, that you’re there to listen and support them whenever they’re ready.
Carers Policy - If you don’t already have one, you may want to consider putting a Carers Policy in place. A Carers Policy should outline how your business will support carers – there may be a list of practical support such as access to their mobile phone in case of emergency calls, and information about taking carers leave. It is also important to include the measures your business plans to take to ensure equality in the workplace. Carers should not feel disadvantaged in their position because of their responsibilities.
Highfield HR can help with creating a Carers Policy for your business. For this or any other HR-related query, email us today at [email protected]