Vivek Patni, CEO and co-founder of Lavanya Plus, offers advice on how HR teams can ensure that informal carers receive the workplace support they need
Informal carers – those who offer some form of unpaid care to a friend or family member – have a strong presence in the national workforce. Indeed, recent research from WeMa Care has shown that they now make up a fifth (18%) of the UK working population.
However, such a selfless commitment to a loved one inevitably takes a mental and physical toll. So much so that 49% feel they have no other choice but to lie about needing a sick day in order to provide care for a friend or family member. Consequently, workplace performance and productivity will inevitably decline.
Alarmingly, 88% of working carers feel they don’t receive any support from their employer. However, in most cases, this is because the majority of working carers don’t feel comfortable discussing their caring commitments with employers; hence the problem remains unresolved.
Of course, there is no simple solution to such a complex issue.
First and foremost, their HR teams must drive cultural change within their organisations and create an environment that encourages informal carers to be more open about their caring commitments.
This is easier said than done. The subject of caring for a loved one is a difficult and highly emotional subject to raise with an employee, hence why many informal carers do not feel comfortable openly discussing their responsibilities with close friends – let alone work colleagues. Therefore, adequate steps must be taken.
It might be worth seeking consultation with a counsellor or therapist to understand how best to approach the issue. These sorts of professionals are experienced when approaching sensitive subjects with individuals, so their input could be valuable to the HR team. Knowing how to sensitively prompt a discussion about informal care will be vital in understanding the specific needs of informal carers and take practical steps to facilitate their needs.
Introducing flexible working
Naturally, the solution will not be a case of one-size-fits-all, however, implementing universal flexible working policies could be part of the answer.
Whether this involves allowing an informal carer to come into work later in order to carry out morning care duties or allowing an employee to work from home one or two days a week, flexible working grants informal carers the luxury of time.
By allowing employees the freedom to dictate their work schedule, they will be happier and more productive when working. For example, allowing a carer to come into work a bit later, will mean they won’t have to get up extra early to perform morning care duties. Thus, their work performance will improve; much to the benefit of their team and the organisation as a whole.
However, sometimes flexible working isn’t enough. There will inevitably be times when the carer is away from their friend or loved one, which could result in anxiety and distract them from work.
There is good news for HR teams, because technology can offer a helping hand. CareTech solutions, such as WeMa Care will, could be invaluable to HR team, providing employees with access to advice around which services they need. Further CareTech solutions, such as WeMa Life – an online care provider marketplace – can connect care providers with those in need of their services.
Such platforms will save the informal career time and energy, not only in terms of searching for the right professional carer, but also the stress felt when they are not with the person they care for. Knowing their loved one is receiving the high-quality care they need will provide peace of mind, which will likely translate into improved workplace performance.
Naturally, changes will not happen overnight, as is the case for the majority of workplace policies. However, HR teams’ commitment to driving positive change in the workplace will bring a multiplicity of benefits. Not only will it enable working carers to enjoy a healthier work-life balance, it will improve their workplace performance and consequently the productivity of the business as a whole.