How to be a carer-friendly employer

Our colleague Rosie Clarke, Head of Inclusion and Diversity Services (North), highlights why it is important to value and understand the role of carers.

By supporting carers, understanding carers rights at work and making them visible in your workplace, you will be enabling them to be their best selves at work which in turn will drive innovation and success in your organisation.

What does it mean to be a carer?

Caring is something than has been undervalued in British culture. Whether you are caring for a relative, partner or friend who is disabled or unwell, or a baby or child, it’s likely that it takes a substantial amount of your emotional and physical energy.

Caring is more than carrying out tasks for another person. We all know how long it can take to do someone’s shopping, arrange their medical appointments or pick them up from a day centre, but have we considered the mental energy it takes to be a carer?

When you’re responsible for another person’s quality of life you don’t go to work and not think about that, it weighs on your mind.

Even when you are concentrating on a big project, somewhere in your subconscious, you are either worrying if they are ok today or planning what needs to be done to support them when you finish work.

The business case for supporting carers

It is essential for workplaces to understand the experiences of carers in their workplace and create carer inclusive cultures.

If carers have to worry in silence, try to juggle work and their responsibilities without support, ultimately, they will not be able to be their best selves at work.

This means organisations lose out on their talent, energy, ideas, will see a decreased turnover, decreased retention rates, lower employee satisfaction scores and burnt-out colleagues.

The business case for supporting carers is clear, if organisations don’t provide support they miss out on innovation.

The importance of including carers at work

If you want to be considered an inclusive employer, you must include carers and make them valued in your workplace.

Legally, carers are protected in a slightly different way to the diversity groups we often talk about. They are not one of the nine protected characteristics, but they are protected in other ways.

For example: if your partner was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, you may need to accompany them to doctor’s appointments and progressively support them to do day-to-day tasks.

Although you do not have a protected characteristic, your partner is considered disabled under the Equality Act 2010 and because you are associated with them (and they are a disabled person) you are protected by the Equality Act 2010 under Disability Discrimination by Association. 

Therefore, employers have a legal responsibility to protect employees with caring responsibility.

How to build a carer inclusive workplace

Building a carer inclusive workplace is crucial for any business. Anyone could be a carer – and it is important you are supporting those employees effectively.

Here are some ways to become a carer-friendly employer:

Have a carers policy

Having a carers policy means there are guidelines and official measures in place to support carers in various ways. Inclusive Employers members can access our carers policy template.

Have support groups or staff networks that include carers

Often, people can benefit from speaking to and being around those who have the same lived experiences and understand what’s going on.

By having support groups or staff networks that include carers, it means they have a proper support system and safe space, as well as meaning they can get involved in the workplace and create connections.

Provide flexible and agile working patterns

Carers have a huge level of responsibility and often there can be emergencies, unplanned trips, or they may simply need some time to rest from their busy schedule.

By offering flexible working in your workplace, you give the employee freedom to do their job whilst allowing time for their caring responsibilities.

Allow specific carers leave

Linking back to policies – all employers should consider having carers leave entitlement. This is a specific type of leave for carers, which doesn’t impact any other form of leave they have (e.g., sick leave or annual leave) and allows them to have time off work for caring responsibilities.

Provide training on how caring impacts individuals and the types of support

Make sure management, senior leaders and HR professionals are aware of how caring can emotionally impact individuals.

It is crucial to be aware of signs of burnout, stress, and an employee who needs a safe space.

Inclusive Employers members can access our Managers Guidance for Carers.

Provide mental health support

As mentioned, caring can be very tough for people to cope with, especially alongside a full-time job.

Make sure to provide mental health support in your workplace through Mental Health First Aiders or Champions.

Raise awareness to break down any stigma around caring

Often, people may feel afraid to explain they are a carer or ask for support for their situation.  

This can often be due to a stigma surrounding caring or not knowing how to ask for support.

By raising awareness in the workplace, people will know what support they can have and more people will be aware of what being a carer means. One way to do this would be to use our Carers Week quiz!

Signpost the support available through Employee Assistance Programmes

By openly discussing and signposting the support that may be helpful for carers (i.e. wellbeing, financial planning, medical, etc.) at work, people will find it easier to access what they need.

Be there for your colleagues

Give your colleagues space to talk openly and without judgement. By having someone at work they can count on and who can support them effectively, they will feel much more comfortable asking for adjustments and explaining their needs.

How Inclusive Employers can support you

In your organisation, there may be more employees than you think working as a carer. Use Carer’s Week as an opportunity to review how you visible and valued carers are in your organisation.

Use Rosie’s guidance above and members please use our resources to support you and get it in touch with your account manager if you need any additional support.

Non-members please get in touch to find out how we can help you to make carers more visible and valued in your workplace.