One in nine of your workforce will be a carer. Many carers struggle to balance their work and caring responsibilities, others feel they have to make a choice between the two.  Supporting staff with their emotional wellbeing needs is not only the right thing to do as a responsible employer, but also has a positive impact on productivity your workforce.

As an example, offering a flexible working approach could enable carers to carry on working effectively. A flexible approach can:

  • attract and retain staff (reducing recruitment and training costs)
  • reduce stress
  • increase resilience and productivity
  • reduce sick leave
  • improve service delivery
  • increase staff morale.

Employers supporting carers

Employees do not legally have to notify their employer that they are a carer. However, in a healthy working environment, carers are more likely to notify someone of their responsibilities and be more cooperative with their managers. Generally checking on an employee’s wellbeing regularly during catch ups and/or appraisals can encourage open dialogue with employees and provide opportunities for employees to raise anything that may be impacting on their general wellbeing.

Where an employer is made aware of an employee with caring responsibilities, employers can take simple, but effective action to enable carers to balance their caring and employment responsibilities.

under the Agenda for Change terms and conditions of service, all NHS employers must have a carer’s policy to address the needs of people with caring responsibilities and to meet the requirements of the ‘right to request’ flexible working legislation. This policy should emphasise the benefits of flexible working arrangements, balancing work and personal life and employment breaks.

in reaching local arrangements to implement this agreement, employers or employees are expected to ensure that no arrangements are reached that discriminate against members of staff with family or other carer responsibilities. For more information see the Agenda for Change terms and conditions of service.

this can be flexi-time, home working, annualised hours, shift swapping, early retirement, self-rostering, job sharing or part-time working. Employers may also consider redeploying a staff member into a less stressful or more appropriate role as a way of keeping them well at work.

employers are required by law to give a reasonable amount of time off for emergencies. Although this does not have to be paid, many employers do pay.

employers could offer compassionate leave or a system of planned leave.

having a supportive manager is key to enabling carers to feel that they can continue to work alongside their caring responsibilities. This may help employees come forward and let their manager know that they are a carer and may need some support and flexibilities. Access to a personal telephone in case of emergencies is a great way to show practical support.

human resource (HR), occupational health (OH) departments and managers need to be trained in how to support staff. Not knowing how to help when first approached by a carer could impact whether the employee remains at work or takes time off sick. OH and HR teams can offer help, advice and assessment on keeping well at work. This may be through access to leaflets, offering counselling or simply having a contact name that carers know they can turn to if needed. Managers should link with HR and OH so they are aware of what support is available and who to link with for support for staff with caring responsibilities.

employers could consider supporting and/or encouraging the establishment of an in-house support group for carer’s, where they could easily get together to have coffee and a chat about their caring responsibilities. Many workplaces now use digital and social media to communicate with staff and could use this channel to create an online support group.

it is helpful to regularly publicise carers’ policies on the intranet and in staff handbooks, and in places where staff information is available.

encourage all staff to have their free NHS health check to support their general wellbeing and enable the early detection of any wellbeing concerns.

free seasonal flu vaccination is available to carers at local GP surgeries. Getting the vaccination protects both the carer and the person they are caring for. Please visit our flu fighter pages for more information on the flu vaccination.

this can help staff feel comfortable to talk about their health freely and without prejudice.

Young Carers

Many children and young people live with and help to care for a parent, brother, sister or other relative who, for whatever reason, is unable to care for themselves.

Please see our young carers webpages for more information on being a young carer and the help that is available.