12th to 18th June is Carers Week, a national awareness week that celebrates and recognises the vital contribution made by the 6.5 million people across the UK who currently provide unpaid care for a disabled, ill or older family member or friend.

Recent research shows that one worker in eight is a carer, while almost one in six has had to take time off work or work irregular hours because of caring responsibilities. This is only going to become more common as the ageing population results in more employees having caring responsibilities in their private lives.

From an employer’s point of view, it pays to be sympathetic to carers and their needs – the employers that can accommodate the needs of carers will retain employees and avoid the costs of avoidable recruitment.

So how can you support your employees who have caring responsibilities?

  1. Make it easy for employees to make their line managers aware of their caring responsibilities – a formal carers policy ensures everyone in the company is aware of the policies and procedures around carers and staff know how to inform their line manager.
  2. Train line managers to support carers so that they are supportive and follow company policy.
  3. Employees with a minimum of 26 weeks’ continuous service with their employer have the right to request flexible working, but employers could go beyond this and have specific flexible working policies for carers. Flexible start and finish times, working from home and the ability to request leave at short notice can all help carers balance their work and private lives.
  4. It can be beneficial to empower line managers to discuss and agree arrangements with carers and to have flexibility so that solutions fit the individual carer and can be reviewed and changed as and when required.

Some staff may not view themselves as carers so it may be worth carrying out an awareness exercise in the workplace to outline who would be considered a carer and asking carers to identify themselves to their line manager or an HR representative. This way, the company can track those with caring responsibilities and ensure a consistent approach and make sure these staff are retained.

Carers Week is a great way to raise awareness in the workplace and increase understanding amongst carers as well as other staff.