21 Nov, 2019
Today is Carers Rights Day, it’s therefore important to remind ourselves of the rights of carers so that we can actively champion them in the workplace. The topic of carers within organisations isn’t something that’s widely discussed or at the forefront of people’s minds, however carers make up 1 in 7 of your workforce. You may have a vague idea of who carers are but they can be defined as:
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, and they contribute £132 billion a year to the economy. Carers are extremely valuable to organisations but can oftentimes be overlooked. The purpose and significance of Carers Rights Day is to ensure carers are aware of their rights, to let carers know where to get help and support and to raise awareness of the needs of carers.
Are you aware of the rights of carers within your organisation?
Rights related to caring come from two sources: The law which gives you statutory rights (which everyone has), and your contract of employment which gives you contractual rights. As statutory rights are something everyone has access to they are easier to assess.
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 alleviate pressures 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 than favourably than those without caring responsibilites).
This can help to ensure that 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 - caring is an important and highly significant part of their life. Carers are holding families together, enabling loved ones to get the most out of life and making an enormous contribution to society.
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 adopt an understanding attitude, so that they can deal with issues that arise 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 so that they’re made aware of them and can be utilised.
- Engage with outside organisations that support carers
Explore external sources for support with forums like Employers for Carers so you can benefit and learn from practical guidance, resources and support. It would also be beneficial to signpost contact details for external organisations so that carers within your organisation 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. Organisations with work experience programmes can run targeted initiatives with schools that speak to young carers by delivering sessions around CV and employability skills. This helps young carers realise their potential whilst fulfilling their care responsibilities.
Further reading and references: