What can your workplace do to make life better for working carers?

The summer break is well and truly behind us and everyone is back full-swing into work, so it’s time to look at how every single workplace can better support working carers.

As more employees become carers, there has never been a greater imperative for employers to develop carer-friendly workplace policies and positive attitudes to working carers.

Some of that can be achieved by having set policies that encourage workplace flexibility, but a lot is about developing awareness and building a positive attitude towards working carers.

Don’t forget that implementing even a few simple initiatives can make the world of difference to a person struggling to balance their role as a worker and a carer.

Here are some immediate changes that you can suggest in your workplace:

• Offer flexibility in working hours and working days.

• Allow carers to take their annual leave in single days.

• Have readily available a fact sheet showing carers their leave entitlements and leave options.

• Create an environment where carers feel confident to openly discuss their caring role and are encouraged to access appropriate support networks.

• Offer more part-time work and work-from-home arrangements to help retain both older and female workers.

Benefits to the organisation of becoming carer-friendly:

• Loyal staff who are flexible in their work approach.

• Staff who are willing to ‘give’ to their organisation as well as benefit from management’s flexibility.

• Retention of skilled and experienced staff.

• Staff who have learnt through their caring experience to be well organised, strategic and resourceful.

The challenges for employed carers

Employment contributes to a healthy work/life balance, however some of the challenges include:

• Carer health and wellbeing – carers can experience a negative impact on both their emotional and physical wellbeing and can often ignore their own health issues. Consider what wellness initiatives your organisation can offer ALL staff.

• Social isolation and relationships – the demands of the caring role can impose multiple hurdles to developing and maintaining relationships, which can lead to a feeling of isolation. Consider starting an informal social group for carers and their supporters by providing a space for a weekly lunchtime get-together. Carers can then share their experiences, knowledge, wisdom and concerns with like-minded colleagues. This can be as simple as a manager sending out an email saying a new carers’ group has started and inviting all interested people to attend.

• Financial realities – the extra cost of caring can be substantial and the capacity of carers to participate in paid employment is reduced, though most carers want to work. Ensuring carers have secure work if they are part-time or casual is very important. Consider making a casual worker permanent part-time to provide greater job security for them.