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26 Apr 2024

The key role employers can play in helping working carers

Some employees with caring roles don’t recognise themselves as carers and businesses have a key role in looking after their wellbeing

Four key ways for employers to help carers in the workplace.jpg 1


The recent Carers’ Leave Act and potential future equalities legislation make it a great time to engage with carers in your workplace. Carer benefits are a priority for up to 20% of employees, according to a recent survey by Carers UK.

A big challenge is that people don’t always know they are a carer, let alone their managers or HR departments. It takes people two years on average to realise they are a carer. Here are four points to remember as an employer:

1. The legal definition

According to the Carers’ Leave Act, a carer must be looking after someone (not necessarily a relative) who has:

  • A physical or mental illness or injury that means they’re expected to need care for more than three months
  • A disability (as defined in the Equality Act 2010)
  • Care needs because of old age

2. Why people don’t realise they are carers

The main reason might not realise they are carers is that people usually care for relatives and see their support as just being a good husband, daughter, sister, or father, etc.

The threshold for when this relationship becomes a carer/cared-for dynamic is vague and varies between individuals and cultures.

It can be particularly difficult when caring for someone due to their age or a progressing illness. The role can start off being occasional support and gradually build.

Too often, carers find themselves juggling work, significant care and other relationships, without asking for or realising they need help.

3. What you can do as a manager of someone with caring responsibilities

If they haven’t come forward to discuss their caring, be tactful and respect that they might not identify as such, even if they talk about providing support for someone.

You might want to mention the new carers’ leave entitlement, or any other support your workplace offers.

The other common scenario is someone only coming forward when their caring responsibilities are at risk of breaking down. If this is the case, the key points are:

  • Give them space to share whatever they need to, create safety by not rushing them, being non-judgemental and also not minimising their feelings
  • Ask them if they are ready to talk about support they need or changes they might need at work to help. People aren’t always able to shift directly from the ‘problem’ to the ‘solution’

When they are ready to make plans, have some examples ready, so they don’t feel as though they have to plan everything. Share relevant policies ahead of meeting with them so you both know what they can expect.

Changes could include:

  • Working flexibly, in terms of hours or location
  • Reducing the number of hours worked
  • Changing role, eg to one with more flexibility
  • A sabbatical

Support you might offer:

  • Connecting to a carers’ networking group, if your workplace has one
  • More frequent check-ins between formal supervisions
  • Coaching or mentoring schemes
  • Signposting to charities such as Carers UK, Carers Trust or a local carers’ centre

4. How to identify potential carers

In the event someone hasn’t identified as a carer or come forward as one, you may play an important role as an employer in helping them.

The sooner someone accesses support as a carer, the more sustainable their role becomes.

This can include eligibility for benefits or support from their local authority, priority for vaccinations etc, as well as support from their employer.

Things to look out for:

  • Changes in people’s routines, including more irregular start-time, finish-time, etc
  • Receiving urgent calls and messages at work
  • General increase in stress levels and tiredness
  • Challenges with concentration, missed deadlines and a change in quality of work
  • Changes in finances leading to requests for salary reviews or advances
  • Requests for changes to work patterns, location or more remote working
  • Short-notice leave requests and using up leave allowances part way through the year
  • Colleagues telling you they are worried about someone

At the workplace level, use tools such as absence reporting or timesheets to initiate conversations with managers.

Remember that well-supported carers are more likely to stay with their employer than colleagues without caring responsibilities, so the sensitivity and understanding shown in all conversations is as important for the employer as the employee.

In partnership with Yurtle

Yurtle is an insurance-based employee wellness benefit helping companies to combat caregiver burnout (and the associated productivity and employee turnover losses) in the workplace.

Contact us today