Today is Carers Rights Day, so it's the perfect time to champion carers' rights in the workplace. Carers make up 1 in 7 of our workforce, but It's a topic that isn't at the forefront of people’s minds. The NHS defines carers as follows:
Anyone, including children and adults who looks after a family member, partner or friend who needs help because of their illness, frailty, disability, a mental health problem or an addiction and cannot cope without their support (NHS).
In the UK there are around 5 million carers who juggle caring responsibilities with work. They also contribute £132 billion a year to the economy, which means carers are clearly valuable to organisations. The purpose of Carers Rights Day is to:
- Make sure carers are aware of their rights.
- Let carers know where to get help and support.
- Raise awareness of the needs of carers.
This ties into your overall diversity and inclusion efforts. Having an inclusive workplace means a happy working environment where employees feel safe. We can also prove that having a truly inclusive organisation will make your business more successful.
Are you aware of the rights of carers within your organisation?
Rights related to caring come from two sources. The law gives statutory rights to everyone, but there might be extra contractual rights. Statutory rights are easier to assess as everyone has them.
Statutory rights related to carers are as follows:
- 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. Examples of flexible working include home working, part-time working, flexi-working and job sharing.
This can help to reduce pressure at work and gives carers a better work-life balance.
- The Equality Act 2010 provides carers with protection from some forms of discrimination (e.g. employers of goods and services must not treat carers less favourably than those who aren't carers).
This lets carers have the same access to opportunities and progression within the workplace as those with no caring responsibilities.
- All employees have the right to take a ‘reasonable’ amount of time off work to deal with an emergency or unforeseen matters involving a dependent. The time off is unpaid unless your employer is willing to give paid time off as a contractual right. Examples of emergency situations include a disruption or breakdown in care arrangements, if a dependent falls ill or has been assaulted or is in an accident.
This allows employees to fulfil their caring responsibilities without fear or repercussions within their job.
Those with caring responsibilities have a more complex experience compared to other employees. Carers are holding families together, enabling loved ones to get the most out of life and making an enormous contribution to society. It's a hugely important and highly significant part of their life.
Knowing what carers' rights are is the first piece to the puzzle. The next step is evaluating what your organisation is doing to support employees with caring responsibilities.
How you can support carers in your workforce:
- Provide flexible working options
Provide employees with opportunities to structure their working day in a way that allows them to fulfil their caring responsibilities outside of work. This helps to alleviate the pressures of work and provides a better work-life balance.
- Train line managers
Provide training for line managers on how to support carers and have an understanding attitude. This lets them deal with any issues effectively and appropriately.
- Create a network of support
This can be in the form of a panel discussion, internal communications or training. Actively engage with employees to discuss the support your organisation has in place for working carers. The support is more likely to be used when you're encouraging and emphasising it.
- Engage with outside organisations that support carers
Use forums like Employers for Carers so you can get practical guidance, resources and support. Share contact details for external organisations so carers have someone to turn to for confidential support and guidance outside of the workplace.
- Show your support for young carers
The Carers Trust reports that there are 700,000 young carers in the UK. If you've got work experience programmes, look for schools where you can run sessions about CV and employability skills. This helps young carers realise their potential whilst fulfilling their care responsibilities.
- Use a diversity and inclusion survey to get honest feedback
We have a research-based employee engagement survey that deals specifically with D&I. It lets you get quick, honest feedback using free text answers. We then analyse them almost instantly with natural language processing to understand how your people feel. It's the fastest way to assess equality at work, diversity in the workplace and how inclusive your culture is. We can also link it to business performance, because we've shown that improving diversity will lead to a stronger organisation.
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