Supporting Working Carers: 4 Key Tips and Insights for Employers

In light of Carers Week 10th - 16th June, it’s a pertinent time for businesses to reflect on support for employees with caregiving responsibilities. In a recent webinar, Jennifer Liston-Smith, Head of Thought Leadership at Bright Horizons, and Jo Broadbent, Counsel Knowledge Lawyer at Hogan Lovells, discussed the many challenges faced by working carers and offered practical solutions for employers as well as insight into the recent legislative changes. This blog distils their insights into actionable steps for businesses aiming to create and build a progressive and supportive work environment for carers, and to retain the skills of this important group in the workforce.

  1. Recognise and Support the Carers in Your Workplace

Recognition and Awareness

One of the foundational steps for supporting carers is recognising their unique challenges. It’s important for the carers in your organisation to feel seen and understood within the workplace. There are many ways this can be done. One example is to implement a carer's passport system, which officially recognises employees' caregiving responsibilities and ensures that flexible working arrangements remain consistent even if the employee changes roles within the organisation.

Flexibility and Practical Support

Flexibility is crucial for carers who often need to respond to sudden and unpredictable demands. Forward-thinking employers offer employees flexible working hours and choice over working locations, where possible. The accommodation of flexibility in terms of when and where work is completed can help carers to manage their dual responsibilities without compromising their professional roles.

  1. Implement Practical Measures for Carer Support Backup Care Services

Back-Up Care services can be a lifeline for working carers, allowing them to arrange temporary care for their loved ones while they continue to fulfil their professional duties. This service isespecially beneficial for frontline workers who cannot easily shift their work schedules, and people with schedules built around immoveable meetings and deliverables as well as those in the ‘sandwich generation’ who are raising young families and caring for elder relatives. Jennifer provided a prime example of this from Chelsea and Westminster Hospital Trust, where Back-Up Care ensured that medical operations continued smoothly despite staff caregiving responsibilities. By providing carers in your organisation with reliable support, they stand a far greater chance of balancing their competing responsibilities and remaining focused and productive.

Navigating the Care Maze

Caregiving can be an overwhelming and confusing experience, particularly when trying to navigate the various options and resources available. This is where the value of concierge services and expert advice lines that help carers understand their options and make informed decisions can make a significant difference. These services not only provide practical support but also alleviate the mental load on carers, allowing them to focus better at work. The experts who provide support through our own Speak To An Expert service attest daily to the sense of relief many of our clients’ employees express when they find a clear way through delivered by an empathic advisor.

  1. Support for Line Managers and Organisational Practices

Training Line Managers

Training line managers to understand and support carers is critical. Providing managers with checklists and conversation guides can help them navigate discussions with employees about their caregiving needs. Empathy, open-ended questions, and a willingness to listen are key traits that managers should develop to support their teams effectively and ultimately, to retain talented and valued employees.

Promoting Best Practices

Highlighting and celebrating successful examples of carer support within the organisation can spread best practices and inspire others. A great way to do this is by creating videos or case studies featuring employees and managers who have effectively managed caregiving responsibilities alongside their professional roles. This not only showcases the organisation's commitment to inclusive and comprehensive support for employees, but also provides helpful and practical insights for others.

  1. Implement Long-term Strategies for Carer Support

Contingency Planning

Proactive contingency planning is essential, especially for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and roles where absence can significantly impact operations. Encouraging carers to self-identify and plan for potential caregiving emergencies can help mitigate disruptions. This approach is similar to planning for annual leave but requires more flexibility and understanding from the employer. And, for carers to be able to openly identify themselves, it’s important for them to feel safe and supported to do so – trusting in their organisation’s carer-friendly, family-friendly, and inclusive culture.

Sustaining Engagement and Loyalty

Providing robust support for carers can significantly enhance employee engagement and loyalty. Employees who feel supported by their employers are less likely to seek opportunities elsewhere. This not only helps in retaining talent but also fosters a positive and inclusive workplace culture.

From recognising carers and offering flexible working arrangements to providing Back-Up Care solutions and training line managers, there are numerous ways employers can create a supportive environment. By implementing these top strategies, businesses can not only enhance the wellbeing of their employees but also benefit from increased loyalty and productivity.

Supporting carers in the workplace is not just a compassionate act—it's a strategic investment in your sustainable workforce. As Jennifer and Jo's discussion highlights, with the right policies and a culture of understanding, businesses can ensure that carers are empowered to thrive both personally and professionally.