There are an estimated 1.1 million carers in Scotland and an estimated 1 in 8 people in the workforce are unpaid carers. Many carers juggle employment alongside their role as an unpaid carer.
Who is an unpaid carer?
A carer provides unpaid care to a family member, partner, relative or friend of any age who needs help to manage a long-term condition, disability, physical or mental health condition or addiction. Many carers don’t see themselves as a carer, instead they consider it part of their duties as a partner, parent, son, daughter or friend. Regardless of who a person cares for, or the reason they provide this care, it is important that carers are identified and supported.
Balancing work and care can be a challenge at the best of times, but ever changing situations and the transition back to the workplace may also present additional stress. Anyone can become a carer at any time in their lives and some of your team may have new or increased caring responsibilities.
Ensure your team members know that you’re happy to chat and address concerns they might have. One simple way to make your team feel they can talk about caring is by mentioning it in a team meeting. It’s always a good idea to ensure staff know about your organisation’s internal policies, such as carer’s leave, time off for dependents and flexible working that may support them in their caring role. Changes in legislation also mean that carers will be able to request up to one week of unpaid carer’s leave.
Managers might be worried about initiating conversations about caring but likewise, team members might also feel reluctant or nervous to discuss their personal circumstances, especially if they are unsure of the support that is available.
As a manager, try asking your team members some of these questions:
- It sounds like life is quite busy/challenging just now. How are you feeling? What’s keeping you going?
- Would it be ok if I asked you a bit more about….It sounds like you may have a caring role?
- What would help you? What can I do to support you?
Ensuring staff feel supported and valued at work will have a direct positive impact on morale, productivity and health and wellbeing. It can also help staff to stay in employment which will benefit your organisation and the individual.
Simple adjustments at work such as flexible hours, a carer’s leave policy, and an internal carers’ network can go a long way to ensuring carers are supported in the workplace. Employers can also signpost carers to VOCAL (Voice of Carers Across Lothian).
VOCAL can help
VOCAL is a charity that provides support for carers including access to information, counselling, legal and benefits surgeries, and free learning and leisure events.
VOCAL can support employers with a range of tailored training courses including ‘Identifying and Supporting Carers in the Workplace’.