Become a carer-friendly employer

As Carers Week begins, coach Suzanne Bourne outlines how employers can make a difference to the lives of carers in the fourth of her series of articles on carers in the workplace.

Caring for an elderly relative


“Most caregivers are 45 years and older, often talented and experienced employees possessing deep company or industry knowledge” – Take Care by David Grayson

Carers Week (10-16 June 2019) is the perfect opportunity to connect with carers and become a more carer friendly employer.

But first the “Why?”

For unpaid carers, who are also working, the workplace is often the dominant community in their lives. Employees who are working and caring may have less access to other communities providing support and may even be missing out on any sense of community.

The UK is facing a social care crisis; change is needed. We are part of a mature society; we don’t just look to government to make change and provide the funds for it. Others are taking action too; health care trusts, charities, faith-based organisations, local government, neighbours and families. When change comes from within communities it can be more agile and more impactful (and often better value for money). If we all care for the carers in our communities it will:

  • Directly ease the pressure on carers
  • Indirectly support people with long-term health conditions and disabilities
  • Reduce the pressure on health and social care at a national level

There is also a small, but growing, group of employers in the UK who have come together as Employers for Carers. These employers also recognise that supporting carers at work makes business sense. They make the following compelling statements:

“The number of carers in the UK is set to increase by 50% to 9.1m by 2037. As a result, more people will be combining work and caring, and doing this for longer.”

“Given the stresses and strains that can result from balancing multiple responsibilities inside and outside the workplace, it is unsurprising that one in six carers give up work or reduce their hours to care. But many of these employees will be your most valuable staff, the 45-64 year-olds at the peak of their careers.”

“By recognising the needs of carers, you can hold on to your experienced staff and reap the rewards of creating a supportive working environment for carers.”

The difference that support could make to carers

Working and caring can involve a lot of juggling. Juggling time, energy, practical tasks and emotions. Carer’s own wellbeing is often the first ball to be dropped. Just as it can be one small thing that brings everything crashing down it can be small things that support carers to survive and thrive. When things reach crisis point carers may feel the only option is to give up work, What if they felt there were other choices? What if they had support to avoid the crisis?

First steps to being a carer friendly employer

Identify a small group of people (which includes carers) in your organisation to make things happen. Any of the following would be great first steps:

  • Encourage carers to identify themselves.
  • Review existing policies – there may be things here that already benefit carers and just need to be highlighted – eg flexible working or compassionate leave. Family friendly policies can often be updated to be family and carer friendly policies.
  • Set up an online network for carers in your organisation and identify a couple of carers champions to lead, welcoming new members and encouraging conversation. Yammer, Facebook, Slack, internal forums and other online tools can be used here.
  • Hold a lunch and learn – ask a couple of people to share their experience of being a carer and talk about how colleagues can best support them.

Next steps for a more sustainable partnership with carers

Once a few simple first steps are in place you will be able to engage more with carers, encourage conversation and collaboration and grow a more transformative offering that is aligned with your organisational culture. Also consider:

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