HR Expert: How to Support an Employee who is a Carer
My client has a member of staff with long-established care responsibilities and wants to know how they can support the individual?  

Recent studies have shown that 1 in 8 people in the UK currently combines paid work with unpaid care responsibilities. This can often be a difficult situation for affected individuals, who may find it difficult to conveniently allocate time to both, and there are several options for your client to consider as they look to provide support to their employees.

As a first step, your client is advised to introduce a workplace policy on carers which outlines their approach and explains the options that are available to staff. Policies should confirm your client’s commitment to supporting staff in managing their combined responsibilities, as well as to protect them from suffering any discrimination as a result. All employees should be made aware of this existing policy, especially new starters who may otherwise be reluctant to mention their care responsibilities.

It is also important for your client to have open and honest communication with affected staff to understand their individual needs. Employees can sometimes be reluctant to disclose their care responsibilities due to concerns that their commitment to work will be questioned, however, your client should try to maintain a regular dialogue ensuring staff feel comfortable and supported. Your clients may also take this opportunity to encourage eligible staff to request a free carer’s assessment with their local social care department, as they may be entitled to a carer’s allowance.

Your client should also consider how flexible working arrangements, such as reduced hours or a period of home working, can support those with care commitments. Although current legislation requires employees to have worked for a minimum of 26 weeks before making a flexible working request, your client may choose to waive this qualifying period to be more supportive to those with care responsibilities. Alternatively, larger clients may be able to offer staff a certain amount of paid time off work to handle their care responsibilities. This additional allowance would reduce the need for employees to use up their annual leave for care purposes, which can often be a source of frustration.

Juggling work and care commitments can be emotionally stressful and have a significant impact on a person’s mental health and wellbeing, which in turn is likely to impact their performance at work. To address this your client should consider introducing an employee assistance programme (EAP) or appointing a designated mental health first aider, which are able to provide staff with a number of supportive materials and guidance which can be helpful during difficult moments.

Given the significant number of workers with care responsibilities in the UK, clients would be wise to make their organisation as welcoming and supportive as possible. Those who take appropriate measures stand to be rewarded with increased retention rates and improved employee morale, which in turn should lead to a more productive and prosperous organisation.

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