Four ways my employer has helped me balance working and caring for my partner
There are an estimated 223,000[i] unpaid carers also balancing paid employment in Wales. With 1 in 7 of the workforce balancing work and care; and those numbers likely to rise with our aging population and aging workforce, it is becoming increasingly important for employers to incorporate carer friendly work practices into the workplace. Recent research[ii] shows just under 150,000 people have given up work to provide unpaid care in Wales and just under half that again (75,000) have reduced their working hours to accommodate caring responsibilities. These figures reflect the UK-wide trend with 2.6 million people leaving paid work and 2 million again reducing hours.
By supporting working carers employers can retain them, avoiding high recruitment and re-training costs as well as boosting productivity with a happier and more valued workforce. The Employers for Carers Wales Hub interviews Robin Addison, based in Swansea, about how his workplace has enabled him to juggle both work and care. Robin works full time at DVLA and is the sole carer for his partner Mel. Robin has cared for Mel for the last 9 years and for half of that time has worked at DVLA, he explains:
“My day normally starts at least 2 hours before actually coming to work. I get up, help my partner with their toiletry and dressing and ready her for work (Mel works from home). I also do her food prep for the day ahead. If needed I go home at lunchtimes, if not it’s the end of day and my caring routine starts again.”
We asked Robin how his caring role has affected his work:
“I’m always stretched, always trying to find enough energy to keep everything going. The support from DVLA has allowed me to make sure Mel gets to hospital appointments. When she ended up in hospital a year ago, DVLA were really helpful with allowing time off to look after her.”
Carers save health and social services billions of pounds across the United Kingdom but the most common refrain we hear from carers at Carers Wales is the guilt they feel. This guilt is exacerbated when that carer is balancing paid work as well; as they feel they are too stretched to dedicate themselves fully to both roles. However, when carers are offered support by employersthey find it easier to fulfil both roles effectively and remain a valued employee.
Carers UK formed the Employers for Carers service 10 years ago to support employers to develop carer friendly work practices in their workplaces. The Wales Hub was launched in the summer of 2018 and has quickly expanded to reach 100,000 members of the Welsh workforce through it members. DVLA was the first member to join and the feedback on their carer friendly processes have been well received by employees. The Employers for Carers Wales Hub speaks to Robin about the four things that have made the most difference to him.
“DVLA have supported [me] by allowing me time to take Mel to medical appointments, even if short notice they can rota me off so I can fulfil my caring role.”
By being flexible with hours; allowing carers time off for medical appointments can make all the difference. This flexibility doesn’t always need to be formalised and with trial and error you as an organisation or a manager can find the right approach that works for you whether it be compressed hours, time off in lieu or as works for Robin in this scenario, team scheduling.
“Having a carers network is really helpful as it’s a clear place to go to when things aren’t going quite right.”
A carers network is a vital source of peer support for your employees; it is an opportunity for staff to feel less isolated and realise other colleagues are impacted by their caring roles too. It is a chance to share best practice on accessing support both inside and outside the workplace.
“When my manager moved onto a new role, my current manager looked over the passport and was given a really good handover from my previous manager to ensure there was that consistency in the way that I was being dealt with. It also meant I didn’t have to repeat what my caring responsibilities were all over again.”
The Carers Passport is a simple tool to ensure consistency with managers for working carers and helps guide the conversation between the manager and the carer. Most templates outline the job role, the caring role, how one influences the other, any flexibilities that may help and the adjustments that have been agreed.
The little things:
“My partner has an apple watch so should she have a fall at home and can’t get up she has a way of contacting me even if she is not near her phone. DVLA allows me to keep my phone on my desk so if she rings me in an emergency I am able to answer”
It’s not always about the big changes – just having a private space to take phone calls to check on the person you look after can give so many carers piece of mind and allow them to really focus on their working day ahead. Other simple adjustments could be allowing carers a designated desk if your organisation has a hot desk policy, having this constancy and stability at work can be essential for carers when their caring role could be causing them a lot of change and upheaval.
“It’s about give and take…knowing what the business needs, managing our needs and expectations to go in line with the business. This ensures that the business doesn’t suffer as they are being compassionate to you.
‘’So many people are unwilling to admit they are caring for somebody as they think it might be detrimental to them carrying on working. All I can say to them is don’t feel guilty and be open with regards to caring responsibilities as you get much more support by being honest than you would keeping it to yourself’’.
If you would like to learn more about these four carer friendly practices mentioned or other ways you can support the carers in your workforce please visit: