Six things a reward and benefits strategy for carers should consider
Although rewarding, being a carer can be tiring and isolating. As our population grows older, more and more people are taking on caring roles alongside their full-time jobs; many of whom are in later life themselves.
As an employer, you’ll have people working for you who have caring responsibilities – whether or not you’re aware of it – and with this comes a range of challenges that can leave employees distracted and absent (both physically and mentally) from work. This could ultimately be costing you in sickness absence, reduced productivity and low employee motivation.
But, there are a number of things you can do to help rectify this, and ensure you’re looking after your employees who are ‘moonlighting’ as carers when reviewing your reward and benefits strategy.
1. Flexible working
Many organisations now operate on a flexible working approach, at least for some of their roles. Removing the fixed 9-5 for those with caring responsibilities can be a big help, and simply knowing that flexible working is supported by their employer can make a difference to their mental wellbeing.
When considering the type of activities a carer has to undertake, such as attending doctor or hospital appointments, flexibility is a necessity. If an employee is able to plan working hours around these events, you can help to reduce the stress and ultimately help them to be happier at work. Carers can be called away suddenly and unexpectedly, and usually for high-pressure or distressing reasons, so the flexibility of being able to react to unpredictable situations whilst not feeling as though they are neglecting their work, is appreciated. Not only that, this sort of flexibility – knowing their work is covered, or that they can ‘catch up’ at a time that better suits them – can greatly improve the performance of that employee and their advocacy of their employer.
2. Promotion of your EAP
The Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) is often thought of as a hygiene factor; always there but not necessarily promoted or championed until someone needs to use it. But it provides specific services which could help those with caring responsibilities.
Access to trained counsellors to talk to can be a useful way to relieve some of the strain that comes with caring for another. There are specific services that EAPs provide which could be pulled out and re-packaged specifically for carers. For example, most EAP services will include information on coping with stress, with articles and week-by-week plans for mental health coping techniques.
3. Promotion of additional services linked to Life Assurance
Most organisations offer a company-funded level of Life Assurance to their employees. The main benefit of this being peace of mind that, should the worst happen, their loved ones will be looked after financially when they’re gone.
What a lot of people aren’t aware of though, are the additional services available to all members as part of their policy. For carers, these can be particularly useful if the person they are caring for passes away. For example, bereavement counselling is frequently offered as one of these services, with trained bereavement counsellors there to talk, support or just to listen.
Depending on the carer’s relationship with the person they were caring for, they may need to go through probate, which can take over a year and can cause additional stress on top of their grief, preventing them from moving on with their lives. Access to a probate helpline will ensure that they’re supported along what can be a complex journey, through to probate being granted.
4. Benefit cover for parents
The benefits landscape is changing, and this can be welcome news for those carers looking after a parent. Some benefits, such as Dental Insurance, now allow you to add your parent(s) onto your cover as an additional dependant. Not only does this help to provide peace of mind that this aspect of their physical wellbeing is looked after, but it also ensures reimbursement for the carer for the cost of any dental check ups or restorative treatment which may be needed.
Those with caring responsibilities often have to take financial responsibility for the person they care for, especially with conditions such as dementia, so if these types of benefits can extend to parents in the same way as they do for children, the financial stress of being a carer can be greatly alleviated.
5. Consider your wellbeing strategy
The impact of being a carer on an employee’s financial wellbeing should be considered when designing your wider wellbeing strategy. Consideration for carers when developing or updating this strategy could be wholly beneficial.
The addition of Wellbeing Days, outside of traditional annual leave, gives employees the flexibility to take a day or two when things are overwhelming, when they need a day to reset, when the balance of work and caring responsibility becomes too much.
Financially, signposting employees to information on will writing and power of attorney options would be well received; not just when considering those who they care for, but when thinking of their own children potentially having to care for them in the future, and making this as straightforward as possible.
Alongside this, access to independent financial advisers allows carers to talk frankly about the estate of those they’re caring for, to ensure wherever possible that their wishes are carried out when they are gone.
Finally, provide information on the Carer’s Allowance and Carer’s Credit from the government, which offers financial support directly to the carer for the work they undertake daily.
6. Holiday Trading
When included as part of a flexible benefits scheme, additional holiday purchase is often the benefit with highest take up (excluding employer-funded benefits), but for carers, holiday sell can be just as important.
Buying additional holiday for a carer could mean a welcome break from their responsibilities and they can come back to work more refreshed, or it could mean allowing them to focus solely on their caring duties for a period of time.
However, it can sometimes work the other way around. Because of their caring responsibilities, carers may not be able to take all of their annual leave in a year, so offering them the opportunity to sell some days back to the company means that they don’t lose the holiday that they’re entitled to, and it also means more money for the employee at a time when they could really need it.
All of these options would make strong additions to any reward and benefits strategy for all employees, but for carers, these approaches could bear even more significance.
If you can help your working carers feel more supported, less stressed and more able to balance their caring responsibilities and their job, they get a happier and healthier working set-up. The person they’re caring for also gets more quality time and care, and you get a more productive and engaged employee.
The author is David Palman, senior consultant, Benefex.
This article is provided by Benefex.
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