Supporting employers to support carers in their workforce
In any workforce there’s likely to be one person out of every eight employees who will be juggling their work with looking after a family member or a friend.
You probably won’t know who they are and they may not have said anything to their colleagues.
But when they go home after a days work, they will be looking after, or caring, for a family member or friend who could not always manage without their support. They might look after someone who is elderly, or someone with a physical disability, long term health condition, mental health issue or a problem with substance misuse.
This is on top of what the rest of us do when we go home after work, be a husband, be a wife, a mum, a dad, meet friends, or go to the gym.
The important bit to remember about being a ‘carer’ is that the person they’re looking after can’t always manage without their support – so this can be a great responsibility for them.
At Forward Carers we’re committed to supporting carers in all aspects of their lives. We know that for many juggling work and caring is an everyday challenge. This is why we champion the work that carers are doing, but also highlight some of the issues that particularly affect them. For instance:
- while many carers experience challenges in juggling work and care, many report significant attractions to working and were keen to remain in employment despite the difficulties they faced. Carers cite benefits beyond the financial rewards of work, including social and health benefits, and a sense of respite from caring;
- For those who remain in paid work, there are other ‘care-related consequences’, such as being obliged to use annual leave to provide care;
- many carers leave work altogether when they feel they cannot cope any longer, and many more reduce their hours, turn down promotion or take lower paid, flexible work that can fit around their caring responsibilities;
- for many carers, having to deal with a crisis was the trigger to coming to terms with the growing impact of their caring responsibilities on their working lives. For some, these emergencies had prompted them to realise that they were a carer;
- carers describe being made to feel guilty or as if they were underperforming, or feeling pressure to compensate for the flexibilities they required as a carer, by working harder;
- for many carers, the attitudes of managers and other staff were just as an important a factor in their decisions around work and care as were the formal policies in place in their workplace: “The employer offered flexible working but other staff were unhappy about this so I had to give up the job.”
We can work with employers to help them to look at the way they manage and support their staff who also have a caring role outside of work.
For instance, the three ‘typical areas’ where an employer might let carers down are:
- a lack of flexibility (both formal and informal);
- a lack of support; and
- limited understanding and empathy, especially from line managers.
These contribute significantly to workers leaving employment prematurely.
Through this work we can help employers understand that across the region each year the cost of sickness absence is £ millions a year, but an even bigger sum is the £ millions lost each year in reduced productivity at work. ‘Presenteeism’ accounts for 1.5 times as much working time lost as absenteeism and costs more to employers because it is more common among higher-paid staff. Add to that the £ millions spent on replacing staff who leave their jobs because of their struggles, then hopefully it makes financial sense (and good sense) to look after their employees in a different way.
So, if we can help carers stay in work, or help carers return to work then we will be making a contribution to the economic wellbeing of many, many carers and their families and friends. Carers in the West Midlands contribute caring activities to the equivalent value of approximately £7 billion per annum and we think that they deserve our support!
We can help to identify employees who are carers:
- We can provide ‘carer awareness’ posters and flyers;
- We can have someone available to answer questions for staff;
- We can register (and assess as necessary) employees who are caring for people living in Birmingham;
- We can suggest that you nominate a “Carers’ Champion” in your organisation;
- We can suggest that you review some key HR policies; and
- We can talk to managers about how to understand the caring roles that some of their colleagues will be undertaking.