Do you know how many carers you employ?

It’s unlikely that any organisation in the UK will know exactly how many carers it has in its workforce. Some people don’t see themselves as carers despite having caring responsibilities, some people won’t want their employer to know, and others may not be aware of any support or flexibility they can get from work so don’t say anything. But what is certain is that the number of working carers in the UK is increasing and it’s highly likely you’ll be employing more people who are juggling work and caring responsibilities over the next few years. Carers describes anyone who is caring for and supporting relatives or friends who are older, disabled or seriously ill who are unable to care for themselves.

This week is Carers Week, an annual campaign ran by 8 organisations and charities to raise awareness of caring, highlight the challenges carers face and recognise the contribution they make to families and communities throughout the UK. It’s also the ideal opportunity to think about what support your organisation provides and a prompt to communicate it better to staff. Even if staff don’t want to talk about their caring responsibilities, it’s important that they can still access support and flexibility when they need it. Too often, organisations have great policies and initiatives to support staff, but due to poor communication and awareness, it might as well not be there. As part of the Carers Week campaign, they are asking people recommend carer-friendly employers – would your organisation be on their list?

Why should you be supporting working carers?
Our ageing population means that more people will be caring for parents and relatives and with more people having a family later, the ‘sandwich generation’ is growing. These are people caring for both children and elderly relatives at the same time. If supporting carers is not already on your radar, we’ve got some great information about how you can get started, with some easy and minimal-cost ideas.

There are currently over 3 million working carers in the UK and Carers UK estimates that the number of carers overall in the UK is set to grow from 6 million to 9 million in the next 30 years. Furthermore, Carers UK’s research suggests that one in six people give up work or reduce their hours to care and one in five people have seen their work negatively impacted as a result of a caring responsibility. That’s a lot of talent and experience lost to organisations who don’t have the right support systems in place. Simple adjustments to how, when and where we work can often help people stay in work, balance their in and out of work commitments and ultimately enable a business to attract and retain people with valuable skills and experience.

We conducted research and published a report, in partnership with Westfield Health, which has practical recommendations for employers about supporting working carers in an agile way. We outline some of these recommendations below.

How can you support working carers in your organisation?

  • Create a supportive culture that legitimises caring – employers need a policy that outlines the support available
  • Develop guidance for working carers and/or set aside a section of the intranet where working carers can be signposted to external sources of support, including financial information
  • Consider different types of support for employees with caring responsibilities. The most common ones are: flexible leave arrangements, flexible work arrangements, use of telephone and private time for calls, counselling and information and advice via employee assistance programmes.
  • Actively promote a flexible working policy that is responsive to the needs of people with caring responsibilities that can be unexpected and typically do not fall into a predictable and regular pattern.
  • Ensure that line managers have the confidence to have sensitive conversations with employees and empower them to tailor their working arrangements to suit their individual caring needs wherever possible.
  • Most importantly, consult with carers about what initiatives and changes would help them the most. You could also consider developing a carers’ network in the organisation to provide peer support.

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  • Most importantly, consult with carers about what initiatives and changes would help them the most. You could also consider developing a carers’ network in the organisation to provide peer support. Yes.