How to support employees with caring responsibilities

According to Carers UK, 6.5 million people in the UK currently care for someone who is elderly, ill or disabled. For those that make up this 6.5 million, life can increasingly resemble an emotionally pressured juggling act; with more and more balls constantly being added.

Not only do they have to deal with personal and professional dilemmas, but they also have to manage the pressures of supporting a dependent both emotionally and financially. This is a heavy load for many, and it can sometimes be overwhelming and isolating. These feelings can impact a person’s overall wellbeing and mental health, which will likely affect their work life too.

If 1 of your employees is currently caring for someone on top of their employed work, there are some things you can do to support them. Below, the wellbeing charity, CABA outline some of the initiatives that you could put in place to make their life a little easier.

Listen and understand

 It’s really important that as an employee or leader, you listen to your employee and let them talk about their situation if they wish. Try to put yourself in their shoes, be sympathetic and try to understand your employee’s individual needs. It’s ok if you don’t know what can be done to help them straight away, you may need to speak to HR or do your own research. Just make sure you pick the conversation back up when you have more answers.

Offer flexible working

Your employee will be juggling the demands of work and being a carer, and they have the right to ask for flexible working. The only condition to qualify is that they must have worked for your current company for at least 26 weeks continuously.

In order to make this request, they must write to you, explaining that they are making a statutory request for flexible working and detail the hours they’d like to do. It could be that they want to work flexible hours, part-time or work from home more often. Make sure you’re clear about your current flexible working options to see if those would help, without making a statutory request.

Remember though, your employee is not obliged to say why they want to work flexible hours, nor give any details of their personal circumstances. But, if you’re already aware of their situation, talk them through how it’s possible to make their home life and professional life work in harmony with your support.

Consider all options

Sometimes, working full time whilst caring for a loved one can get too much, leading them to hand in their notice. In an attempt to prevent this, make them aware of some of the potential support they can access. For instance, if they’re facing a period of intense caring demands and have already used up their annual holiday entitlement, you could allow them to take a short period of unpaid leave. Or, you could consider offering a short career break. It’s worth chatting these options through with your employee, to see if these would help ease the burden.

It’s also worth remembering that some employees won’t feel comfortable discussing this directly with you, so consider involving your HR department.


Point them in the right direction

There is lots of help and advice available, so try to point your employee in the right direction. They probably don’t have time to do this for themselves but could probably benefit from some additional support or just someone to talk to that isn’t a friend, family member or colleague.

There are lots of charities and counselling services available, and their GP can also help provide the right advice and support.


Help other employees to understand

While it’s important to support employees who are carers, it’s also important to make sure others who aren’t carers don’t feel hard done by. It could be perceived as ‘1 rule for 1’ if you let 1 employee leave early for an appointment, but don’t extend the courtesy to others. Try to think about how this looks to others, and what would be beneficial to the whole team. Whilst you may not be able to discuss personal circumstances, make it known that you’re a leader who supports their colleagues on an individual basis.

It can be tricky to know how and when to offer the right support to your workforce, especially when it’s in relation to a personal matter. But by making current benefits and procedures known to all, you will go a long way in making your employees feel valued and supported- which is not only good for them, but for the wider business too.