A Carer is anyone, including children and adults who looks after a family member, partner or friend who needs help because of their illness, frailty, disability, a mental health problem or an addiction and cannot cope without their support.
A working Carer is any employee who is carrying out an unpaid caring role outside of work.
It can take years for someone to realise they are in a caring role. Raising awareness of the caring role helps employees who may not realise they are in a caring role to self- identify. This is the first step in accessing support and it helps line managers to understand the challenges of balancing work and care and empowers them to communicate effectively with staff in a caring role.
Raising awareness of the realities of juggling work and care can help build a supportive environment and boost team morale. Carers are more likely to feel comfortable disclosing their role if they feel confident that the person, they speak to has some knowledge and understanding of caring. This will help to build more inclusive teams. It is important that staff are aware of Headway’s commitment to working Carers in order to encourage staff to ‘buy-in’ and give working Carers the confidence / knowledge to self-identify.
For many Carers, work is a central part of their life, an opportunity to retain their sense of self, earn a salary, feel fulfilled and achieve their ambitions. Yet, without the right support 1 in 4 working Carers report they are considering giving up work due to conflicting demands and stress. Simple changes can alleviate this tension and empower employees to thrive at work, help Carers build resilience, and demonstrate to others that it is possible to have a full life outside of the caring role. Remember, the majority of the population will have caring responsibilities at some point in our lives.
Many people who meet the criteria for being a Carer do not self-identify as one.
In fact, on average, it takes people two years to recognise they are in a caring role – time when they could have been receiving support and services to assist them and reduce the impact of their role. It can be difficult for Carers to see their caring role as separate from the relationship they have with the person for whom they care, and it is quite common to hear the refrain – ‘I’m not a Carer, it’s what any husband/ wife/friend) would do…’
Encouraging working Carers to recognise their role is the first step in opening a dialogue about the impact of their role on their wellbeing and work production.
Support for Carers is not be a reward, it is designed to improve staff wellbeing, increase productivity, and reduce absence/turnover. Transparent communication about Carer support helps increase staff take up.
A survey by Carers UK showed that for staff in a caring role, having a supportive line manager had one of the greatest positive impacts on how they felt at work. Ensuring that line managers have undertaken the Carer Friendly Employer training is a crucial step. It is important that staff who care identify and meet with our Working Carer Champion or the line manager to discuss the impact of caring on their work, to communicate the support available and to record any individual agreements around support take-up or working practice adjustments/changes.
Few of us like to be singled out, particularly at work. Headway want to help empower employees to take up support, by normalising flexibility in the workplace, embedding a supportive culture and demonstrating that support for Carers benefits everyone. While the services and support available for Carers will be consistent across the organisation, the needs of each Carer are unique and the support they choose to access will differ. Line managers my nor be experts about working Carers, but they are trained and will be able to listen and discuss support.
Support and recognition at work can create a working environment where Carers can thrive. Yet, our experiences outside of work – whether that is socially, in a volunteer role, at leisure or just carrying out day-to-day chores, affects us too. If we have a positive interaction on the way to work, we enter with a smile.
Equally, challenges and frustrations that occur outside of work, impact us too. When Carers feel like they are not valued or understood by their community or when the organisations they work for do not make accommodations for their caring role, it effects how well Carers are able to balance all aspects of their life.
WORKING CARER CHAMPION
Sue Tyler – CEO - email@example.com TEL: 0121 457 7541