Carers Week 2018

Posted on 13 June 2018 by You HR

Who is a carer?

A carer can be anyone!
A carer can be anyone who cares for a friend or family member who is unable to cope without support due to illness, disability, a mental health problem or an addiction, and the carer is not paid.
A carer could be a young person looking after a parent with a drug addiction, a middle-aged man caring for his partner who has a terminal illness, or an elderly woman looking after her husband who has Alzheimer's disease.

carer wheelchair


How do you identify a carer?

It’s important to be approachable as an employer and understanding so that the carer can approach you.
Signs to look out for:

  • The employee is frequently needing to adjust their hours to take a loved one to appointments or to look after them
  • The employee is taking sick leave to look after a loved one
  • The employee seems stressed and isolates themselves

A Return to Work interview should always be conducted after every period of absence and where possible you should carry this out on the day an employee return. A Return to Work interview is an important part of absence management and can help provide you with an opportunity to start a dialogue with staff about underlying issues which may be causing the absences. The Return to Work questions can be used to help start an open dialogue around an employee needing to adjust their hours.


Examples of Return to Work questions to ask the employee:

  • Ask the employee how they are feeling and why they were absent
  • Advise the employee that they were missed. Reassure the employee that they play a valuable role within the team.
  • Update them on anything they have missed at work while being absence.
  • Ask the employee if they visited their GP; what did he/she say?
  • Discuss with the employee if there are any personal or work-related issues that may have contributed to the illness
  • Highlight any trends that you have identified
  • Ask the Employee if there any measures that can be taken to prevent future absences and discuss putting these in place

Becoming a carer can be a gradual process, meaning carers don’t always recognise when they are carers. Carers can see looking after a loved one as being a ‘Son’ or ‘Wife’. The cared-for person struggles to recognise they are being cared for.


What are the Carers rights within the workplace?


Statutory Rights

The right to a flexible working request

All employees have a right to request flexible working after they have worked for the same employer for 26 weeks, as long as they haven’t already made a flexible working request within the last 12 months. As an employer, you must have a sound business reason for rejecting any request.


Examples of flexible working:

  • home working
  • part-time working
  • term-time working
  • working compressed hours
  • working staggered hours
  • working annualised hours
  • flexi-time
  • shift working
  • job sharing


Time off for dependants

Employees have the right to have time off in emergencies or an unforeseen circumstance to carer for dependants. As well as the right to take a 'reasonable’ amount of time off work to deal with the emergency or an unforeseen circumstance involving a dependant. A dependant includes a partner, child or parent, or someone living with them as part of their family or others who rely on them for help in an emergency may also qualify. The time off is unpaid unless you as an employer is willing to give paid time off as a contractual right.


Examples of emergency situations:

  • a disruption or breakdown in care arrangements
  • if a dependant falls ill or is in an accident
  • to make longer-term arrangements for a dependant who is ill or injured (but not to provide long term care yourself)


Protection from discrimination - under the Equality Act 2010

In England, Wales & Scotland if an employee or individual is looking after someone who is elderly or disabled, under the Equality Act 2010 by law they are protected against direct discrimination or harassment because of their caring responsibilities. This is because they are counted as being 'associated' with someone who is protected by the law because of their age or disability. Direct discrimination is where an employee or individual is treated less favourably than someone else because they are caring for an elderly or disabled person.


Example of this are:

  • not offering someone a job because of their caring responsibilities
  • treating someone less favourably because of their caring responsibilities


Contractual Rights

Contractual rights differ from contract to contract. Check your contract of employment, staff handbook, HR policies or letter of appointment to see what the contractual rights are for an employee on top of their statutory rights.


Tips for supporting a carer

These are You HR Consultancy’s top tips for employers to take to ensure that carers are able to balance work life and their careering responsibilities:

  • Ensure there are flexible working policies are in place and promote these to
  • Review your process on paid ‘care leave’ so the carer is not forced to take unpaid or annual leave for caring emergencies, remember the carer may already have finical pressures on them due to their caring situation. Carers also often have little time for themselves, so their annual leave can be an important rest period for them ensuring they can re-charge and remain engaged and focused at work.
  • Ask carers if they are happy to be identified to other carers within the workplace to create a network.
  • Invest in an employee assistance programme.
  • Regularly meet with the carer to offer your support and see how they are getting on.
  • Ensure that all relevant HR policies are in an easily accessible place, identify the relevant policies to carers.
  • Signpost carers to support they can get outside the workplace, such as advice and information services and support groups. For example, encourage the carer to request a carer’s assessment as they may be entitled to a carer’s allowance.
  • Provide training for managers so that they are able to support and understand a carer within there team.
  • be sympathetic and understanding.
  • Create a carers policy.

All of these steps can help to reduce stress and sick leave, improve engagement and increase morale, in turn helping you to retain that employee reducing recruitment and training costs as well as a become an attractive employer to others.


Recognising the skills, a Carer can bring as an employee

Carers often have transferable skills which they have gained through their role as a carer.

Some of these skills can include:

  • managing direct payments
  • complex scheduling and coordinating a range of professionals
  • being understanding and having empathy
  • the ability to prioritise and multitask
  • good at working independently


How can we support you further?

At You HR Consultancy we can offer the following products along with expert advice on employment matters to help you support a carer in the workplace:

  • Carers Policy
  • E-learning courses around carer’s
  • Coaching and support for managers and team leaders
  • Flexible working policy
  • Revising your current contract and handbook to make them carer friendly

Visit our Academy pages to find out more about our online HR Content Library and E-Learning packages or our Services page to find out how we can support you further.

As the leading HR and Organisational Development Consultancy in Wallingford, Oxfordshire we are keen to hear from you!



Written by Holly Wells, Graduate HR Adviser, in support of Carers Week 2018

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