Employers for Carers is an organisation that has evolved from a group of employers, supported by the specialist knowledge of Carers UK, who are committed to helping carers with their caring responsibilities and ensuring that employers retain their talented employees, who may feel under pressure and need that extra support. Parental Choice asked Employers for Carers for their advice on supporting employees with disabled children.
Parents of disabled children often face significant challenges in combining work and caring. While being a working parent can be challenging enough, a parent with a disabled child will face extra pressures on their time and energy and on their own health and well-being. As well as the additional element of care involved, accessing care and support services can be a real challenge and many childcare services are not geared up to disability. Employers for Carers has evolved from a group of employers who are committed to helping carers with their caring responsibilities and ensuring that employers retain their talented employees, who may feel under pressure and need that extra support. Parental Choice asked Empolyers for Carers for their advice on supporting employees with disabled children.
Because of these pressures it is not surprising that one in six carers (including parent carers) give up work or cut back working hours, to care. Tiredness and stress are especially difficult problems and evidence suggests that such employees are at risk of ill health if unsupported.
So the impact on employers of NOT addressing this issue includes loss of staff talent, resilience and productivity. Conversely, employers who ARE addressing the need to support the carers in their workforce are increasingly identifying the business benefits of improved staff retention, resilience, performance and results.
Employers can do a lot to help by being aware of these challenges and by having a flexible and understanding approach.
Top of the list that can make a difference for parent carers is for employers to have a flexible and understanding approach – and implementing flexible working and leave arrangements are two very practical ways of putting this approach into practice.
Flexible working practices can range from (or include any of) a variety of arrangements such as flexi-time, staggered hours, part time working, home working, annualised hours, compressed hours, flexible holidays or career breaks. However often relatively simple flexibilities and adjustments can really help to make a difference.
Emergency leave can be critically important to employees if their child is suddenly taken ill or if care arrangements break down. Other types of leave arrangements which can support carers are planned leave, special (carers) leave and compassionate leave.
Other forms of workplace support which are valued by parent carers include in-house staff networks, employee assistance (or other welfare) programmes and employee health and wellbeing initiatives.
Signposting, for example via the staff intranet, to external sources of advice and support such as Carers UK www.carersuk.org and disability and health condition specific organisations can also be very helpful. This not only saves valuable time for staff who are doubly busy combining work and care but also demonstrates the employer’s recognition of caring as an important issue in many employees’ lives.
The most comprehensive form of signposting to external sources of care and support offered by some employers is the provision of back up/emergency childcare and care schemes as an employee benefit. Currently this type of support is generally only offered by employers with the most well-established family friendly practices. However a growing number of larger size employers are now recognising the business benefits of providing such help in terms of promoting staff retention and resilience.
Simple adjustments such as access to a private telephone or car parking close to the workplace can also help to make life easier for parent carers.
Employees with a disabled child need to know that it is ‘okay to talk about caring’ and to tell their employers about their family responsibilities. Making caring a more visible issue in the workplace – whether by awareness raising activities, publicising policies on the intranet or identifying champions in the workplace – can play a key part in helping employees with disabled children to identify themselves as carers and come forward for support.
Employers can also benefit from learning from each other through membership of business forums such as Employers for Carers (EfC). EfC has evolved from a group of pioneering employers who have been committed to working carers. Steered by a leadership group of employers and supported by the specialist knowledge of Carers UK, the forum’s key purpose is to ensure that employers have the practical help they need to retain and support the carers in their workforce www.employersforcarers.org