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Half of the UK’s 6.5 million carers are juggling paid work alongside caring¹. That’s 3.5 million workers in the UK caring for someone with Alzheimer’s. As well as managing a job—and a life of their own. Over time, it can take its toll. We know that one in six carers either leave work or reduce their hours to find the time.
Carers in work will often need to take time off without warning, cut back hours or start late due to caregiving responsibilities. This can leave employees feeling guilty, demotivated and overstretched at work. The sacrifices can also have detrimental effects on carers mental and physical health. Employers must begin to recognise this issue in the workplace.
Below, we’ll discuss ways you can support employees juggling work, caring and the demands of life.
Line manager support
Managing day to day life at work can be tough for carers. If they're preoccupied with worries and caring responsibilities, performance is likely to decline. Line managers tend to notice this change in employee behaviour first. Employers should provide training to all managers on what to do when they spot an employee struggling. This essential training can help managers to identify mental health concerns. From here, employees and managers can begin to reach an agreement on the steps that need taking. You might want to offer flexible working hours, working from home or compassionate leave. Having these conversations with employees can improve productivity at work. So it's beneficial for everyone involved.
signpost to support
Everybody copes with pressure differently. Employees might not speak up when they are struggling for fear of judgement or embarrassment. It can be difficult to open up, especially in the workplace. Unfortunately, this means that many employees may suffer in silence and struggle to juggle the demands of life. Employers can help by signposting employees to support. Charities like the Alzheimer’s Society can provide information, support and guidance on caring for someone with Alzheimer’s. You might also have an employee assistance programme in place that offers emotional support. Either way, it’s good to signpost to the help available. Employees are likely to feel less alone and better equipped to take on life’s challenges. Sometimes this nudge is all it takes for someone to use the services available.
Creating a specific carers policy can raise awareness of the issue in the workplace. Employees will be more likely to approach this conversation with their managers. Managers will also feel better equipped to help employees. The policy should outline adjustments for employees who identify as a carer. By law, carers can request flexible working and time off in emergencies. Your policy should state the steps employees need to take in these cases. This way, employees can begin to understand how their role can adapt to make work-life more manageable.
Focus on employee wellbeing
An active approach to employee wellbeing can prevent employee issues from spiralling. When problems get approached early on, resolutions arise much quicker. Adopting a work culture of openness can improve life satisfaction for employees. And when they feel supported, productivity and performance will improve too.
Here are some things you can do to improve employee wellbeing in the workplace:
For help supporting employees who are caring for someone with Alzheimer’s, get in touch with Health Assured on: 0844 891 0353
¹ Employers for Carers and Carers UK, 2021. Supporting employees who are caring for someone with dementia. [online] Carers UK. Available at: <https://www.dementiaaction.org.uk/assets/0000/9168/Supporting_employees_who_are_caring_for_someone_with_dementia.pdf> [Accessed 16 September 2021].
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