Employee support | What does good support for working carers look like?

What does good support for working carers look like?

By Tracey Ward, Head of Business Development & Marketing at Generali UK Employee Benefits

Amongst one of the many changes brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic was the huge increase in the number of unpaid working carers in the UK; 2.8 million extra workers juggling work and unpaid care. This brings the estimated number of unpaid carers who are also in paid work to over 7 million across the UK: around one in four workers, according to Carers UK.

And while the massive increase in homeworking helped some with this juggling act, it made it all the more stressful for others, says Carers UK, who found from their research that people felt they had no respite from their caring role and struggled to concentrate on work.

In fact, ‘separating work from home’ represents one of the top two things working carers worry about most right now, alongside ‘loved one’s health declining’. These results came from a recent social poll that Generali UK ran alongside our webinar on how to better support working carers, in partnership with LifeWorks and MorganAsh.*

Add financial stress to that picture – over half of carers feel anxious or stressed about their finances – and it’s easy to see that this is a big problem, not only for the working carer, but also for employers.

In this article, we take a look at who might be defined as a working carer (many carers don’t actually view themselves as carers), what the employer responsibility looks like, and how to improve support.

What is a working carer?

NHS England uses the following definition: “A carer is anyone – including children and adults – who looks after a family member, partner or friend who needs help because of their illness, frailty, disability, a mental health problem or an addiction, and cannot cope without support. The care they give is unpaid”.

Kay Haighton-Lloyd, Claims and Nurse Manager from MorganAsh, comments: “We tend to think of working carers as someone who provides physical support. However, some of the less well-known carer support roles include being available on the phone; lasting power of attorney role; being a taxi service – taking someone to appointments; advocacy roles; shopping; housework; cooking extra meals.

“Just because someone goes into a care home, doesn’t mean that the caring role stops, you’re still supporting that person. And if they’ve got care at home, you might become their care coordinator. There’s much more to it than physical support alone.”

What’s the employer’s responsibility

It’s important that the employer considers their Duty of Care in terms of the Equality Act 2010.

For those looking after someone who is elderly or disabled, the law will protect them from direct discrimination or harassment because of their caring responsibilities. This includes unfair treatment in the workplace, as well as housing, education, when buying goods or services or accessing public services.

In other words, disability discrimination extends to individuals who are associated with a person with a protected characteristic, including age or disability.

Jim Dickson, Clinical Manager at LifeWorks EAP and Wellbeing Solutions, adds that line managers play a crucial role. “It’s about having curiosity and empathy; knowing that your employee has caring responsibilities out of work and understanding the stresses and strains associated.

“It’s about having good conversations with people and looking at whether the workplace can put in place anything to help. It’s also about signposting people to appropriate help. For example, EAPs – the counselling aspect might be useful but, equally, this service can be invaluable to just connect with people; to have an initial conversation and establish needs, whether they may be emotional, practical, or hook-ups with local community services.”

Meanwhile, the eldercare services provided by MorganAsh, may prove useful for anything from arranging a power of attorney to carrying out Occupational Therapy assessments in the home if a loved one has been hospitalised and is due to be discharged. MorganAsh will also help with researching and sourcing specialist care if needed, from care homes to domiciliary care in the home.

How to improve support

  • If you have group income protection in place, speak to your provider to find out what kind of support is included in your programme for working carers and their loved ones. This can vary from provider to provider. As an example, Generali UK provides an Eldercare Support Service, encompassing integrated support from: LifeWorks’ EAP; MorganAsh’s services, as described above, and also Best Doctors for expert second medical opinions (available where the elderly relative lives with the employee) and their Mental Health Navigator service. In addition, there could be Wellbeing Investment Matching fund opportunities to explore which can help finance companywide initiatives targeted towards working carers.

  • Also speak with your insurer or standalone EAP provider to find out if they offer manager consultations. These can provide essential support to line managers who might be handling sensitive employee issues and need some extra support themselves.

  • Finally, if you’re thinking about developing dedicated carer-friendly HR policy – or making specific mention of carers within existing HR policies – it’s worth taking a look at the CIPD website for a useful guide on how to become a carer-friendly workplace. It looks at what might be included – such as carers’ leave, flexible working, information on career breaks, access to wellbeing sessions and carers’ support networks. Also, tips on how to communicate this and embed a culture of support.

Find out more about Generali

*To obtain a free copy of the 30-min webinar recording ‘Improve support for your working carers’ aimed at HR professionals and Line Managers and hosted by Generali UK, in partnership with LifeWorks and MorganAsh, please email [email protected]

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Generali UK Employee Benefits

Generali UK provides Group Life Assurance, Group Income Protection - plus added-value wellbeing services - to the UK employees of multinational clients. Generali UK is also pioneering Wellbeing Investment Matching, helping clients fund discrete, tailored wellbeing initiatives where a need has been identified.

Access to a range of multinational pooling and captive solutions is available via: Generali Employee Benefits Network (GEB), and a range of non-life coverages is available via Generali Global Corporate & Commercial.