Supporting employees who are also carers

Tuesday, 03 October 2017

One in eight people in the UK (6.5 million) are currently combining paid work with unpaid caring responsibilities. Article from Zara Ross, Chief Executive at Ben.

Two thirds of these people work full time, and one third part time. This means that in any organisation employing 100 people, there are likely to be at least 12 carers. By 2037, it is predicted that there will be 9 million carers in the country (1). A total of 625,000 people suffer with mental and physical ill health as a direct consequence of the stress and physical demands of caring (2). Therefore, we felt it was important to offer some insights to employers about supporting employees who are also carers.

Carers are a diverse group of people because every caring situation is different in nature. Carers can be adults caring for other adults, parents caring for their ill or disabled children or young carers under the age of 18 caring for a loved one. Anyone could be a carer (or become a carer) because people of all ages and circumstances have caring needs and people of any age can be disabled – or become disabled. There are a variety of different caring situations, from children with ADHD and young adults caring for parents with addictions, right through to elderly relatives who have a physical disability or illness, like Alzheimer’s or dementia.

Some carers see themselves as a wife or husband, mother or father, partner, grandparent, child, friend or neighbour, rather than a “carer”. There are situations with multiple carers as part of a family or community network. The nature of these caring relationships means that care includes emotional, as well as physical support. Additionally, because of the nature of the illness and relationship, a care-giver may not be recognised as such by the person they are providing care to.

The demands on a carer:

Some carers are not willing to share information about their caring responsibilities with their employer, since they worry that their commitment to their job will be questioned. Caring for someone can be physically exhausting and emotionally stressful, and often results in carers feeling unsupported, isolated and alone. These feelings can impact on a person’s overall health and wellbeing, particularly their mental health, which is likely to have a knock-on effect on their ability to work.

The stresses of full time work and then going home to be a carer can take its toll, so carers need regular respite to stay in good health. Carers may have to get up through the night to care for someone, which can make them physically tired and drained during working hours.

Benefits of supporting an employee who is a carer:

There are many benefits to supporting an employee who is also a care-giver. Good, hard-working employees are an asset to a company so retaining these people will bring multiple business benefits.

By ensuring you look after your employees in this way can improve workplace morale and reduce stress and sickness absence. Showing that you are a flexible, caring employer is also good for the reputation of your business and can also attract staff, as well as retaining existing staff. You can find out more about the business case for supporting carers in the workplace on the Carer Positive website.

How to help someone who is a carer:

Carers are being increasingly recognised as providing a valuable service, so it’s important to understand what help is out there to support your colleague in their caring role. Here is some guidance to help you support them:

Listen and let them talk about their situation, being sympathetic and understanding. Understand your employee’s individual needs – every situation is different. Focus on empathy in order to understand how it feels to be in the carer’s position and mitigate feelings of isolation. Foster an open and inclusive culture where employees feel supported and empowered to respond to situations as they need to.

Offer flexible working patterns. By law an employee can now request flexible working and they can submit one request per year. Enable them to take emergency leave (at short notice) when needed. Offer training for managers and supervisors so that they understand the demands that working carers experience and are aware of the support available to them.

(1) and (2) Carers UK 2015:


Shared from The HR Director