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25 Mar 2024

The crucial steps to create a carer’s policy

When it comes to recognising and supporting unpaid carers in the workplace, the tide is turning

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On 6 April, the UK Carer’s Leave Act comes into force and carers will be entitled to a week’s unpaid carer’s leave per year. 

Furthermore there is increasing political support for caring becoming the 10th protected characteristic, which would provide direct protection under equalities law.

The Carer’s Leave Act gives an opportunity for companies to consider their broader approach to supporting carers, particularly as more people will request the time off. 

The realities of being a working carer:

  • It takes an average of two years for someone to realise that they are a carer 
  • Around 25% of your workforce  will have caring responsibilities, whether you (or they) know it
  • In the UK, 75% of working carers worry about juggling work and care, and 600 leave their jobs each day as a result 
  • Women are 50% more likely to be carers , and also tend to provide significant levels of care (20h a week or more) 

Putting a policy together

It is important to have processes in place to manage the new carer’s leave entitlement, but an overall policy for carers enables the organisation to be clear about how to provide support and the benefits available. 

Having a policy gives supervisors and managers clarity on what steps to take, so each time a colleague comes forward with their caring role and any associated challenges, they can expect consistent support. 

1. Look at your policies

Do they tell you how to support colleagues in different circumstances, such as when they are sick, or bereaved, when they have children or take a holiday? Compare what you offer in terms of payment or time off with their statutory entitlements.

2. Determine your available resources

It is important to consider the cost and time implications of any new approaches, and to be realistic about what can be committed to. 

Have conversations at the highest possible level to ensure the organisation’s commitment to supporting carers is understood and can be reinforced by leadership.

3. Consider non-financial support

In line with good practice in diversity, equity and inclusion, facilitating carers networking can help foster peer support and guide the organisation’s progress in this area. 

Similarly, mentoring and career coaching can engender valuable personal development for those balancing work and care. Finally, flexible working can allow carers to attend to all the priorities in their lives and help avoid burnout.

4. Think about how a diverse team might feel about their benefits

A team of 12 people may have three carers, several parents, a disabled person, and some with agreed flexible working arrangements. 

Consider how they might feel about the benefits each other have access to, and whether they all feel similarly supported and invested in. 

For example, a situation where a parent is given generous paid time off to welcome a new child could feel unfair to a carer who has one week of unpaid carer’s leave, or to somebody with a persistent illness who receives statutory sick pay.

5. Consider including carers in your employee benefits

There are a range of carer-specific products available for inclusion in your packages of support to employees, all with different types of support and price points. 

Consider the prevalence of caring and the likelihood that new carers will now come forward to request leave, and what you will be able to point them to when they do. Make sure employee benefits are carer-friendly when you renew.

6. Carer’s Leave Act compliance

Central to your policy will be compliance with the Act, and there are specific points you will need to address:

  • Facilitating a minimum of five days unpaid leave (could also be more than five days or paid)
  • In line with other employment law, employees should give notice double the length of the leave being requested
  • Employers need to ensure that asserting this right doesn’t lead to discrimination. This can be achieved in a number of ways, including:
    • Not recording carer’s leave taken on a permanent record
    • Ensuring carer’s leave is not taken into consideration in performance reviews and internal recruitment
    • Adjusting any productivity targets for the year to allow for carer’s leave taken

7. What your new Carers Policy should include:

  • Definition of a carer
  • Carer’s leave
  • Flexible working
  • Additional support, such as networking, mentoring/coaching and employee benefits offer (general/carer-specific)
  • External support, including local and national charities
  • Processes/forms for participation in carer’s leave and other activities

8. Train supervisors and managers

Ensure that everyone who might help identify and support a carer, or who might be approached to, knows about the policy and is confident communicating it. Depending on your workplace, this could be an intranet resource, a lunch and learn session, or an e-learning module.

9. Communicate it

Taking this important step in recognising and supporting carers is something to be proud of. Ensure your workforce knows about the work you are doing, refer to it in recruitment materials and on your website, and alert your sector and HR press to your efforts to value and empower carers.

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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.

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