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.
It’s important to be approachable as an employer and understanding so that the carer can approach you.
Signs to look out for:
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:
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.
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:
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:
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:
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.
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:
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.
Carers often have transferable skills which they have gained through their role as a carer.
Some of these skills can include:
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:
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