Following the launch of our Build a Better Workforce survey, we are sharing useful tips on how to make your workplace even better for staff. Laura Wood, our Clinical, Mental Health and Learning Disabilities Specialist, kicks of a new series of information focused on how you can best support your staff.
As the UK population ages and the number of people of working age declines, a higher proportion of workers will be forced to take on caring roles. Add to that the fact that we are all set to work longer, this means many more people will be combining work and care for longer.
Caring experiences vary – a working carer might be providing constant support or a few hours a week; the care might be at home, or they might have to travel to support someone. Caring may involve personal care, handling finances, coordinating with medical/care services, or providing things (such as doing the shopping). Caring might be a sudden experience (following an illness or accident), or it might be more of a gradual process, where the carer realises, for instance, that their parents can no longer manage on their own.
We pride ourselves in working in a caring industry supporting a wide range of people, but do we really recognise this means our staff too?
Why should you adopt a carer friendly workplace?
Showing support for working carers is likely to enhance your reputation and make your service a more attractive place to work. You will retain staff and it is likely to impact on stress and sickness levels and ultimately costs. Working carers who are supported are less likely to want to reduce their hours or leave. Employers also have a responsibility under flexible working regulations and equality legislation relating to disability which could apply to carers.
How you can create a carer friendly workplace:
- Identify carers in your workplace and identify individual staff needs
- Develop a carer policy which identifies what it means to be a carer and the support offered to carers – These could include carers’ leave or other special leave arrangements, flexible working options, information on carer breaks, access to wellbeing sessions and carers’ support networks
- Link to other helpful services, if you offer them, such as occupational health and employee assistance programmes, or point to external sources of support if you don’t offer them
- Flexible working can be a great support to working carers struggling to juggle work and caring commitments. Caring responsibilities can be sudden and unpredictable, so it’s important to think about how to provide informal as well as more formal options of flexible working
- Hire flexibly! When recruiting, consider including the tagline, ‘happy to talk flexible working’
- Provide carers leave and time off for emergencies in your contracts
- You could consider supporting or encouraging the forming of an in-house support group for carers, where they could easily get together to have coffee and a chat about their caring responsibilities
A shift in the culture of care means that standard shift patterns don’t need to always apply. The people we support need flexibility from staff to attend appointments, attend activities and create support according to their individual needs. Therefore, having staff that work flexibly can also be hugely beneficial for them too and is of course person-centred.
As employers we have a moral duty to provide the best support we can offer to our employees, particularly if they’re experiencing challenges outside of work that impact their wellbeing in the workplace. This should be reflected wherever possible in the values and culture of our organisations.