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How to provide support for your working carers

All employees deserve to be supported by employers seeking to ensure they have a good work-life balance. But how much extra support should you provide for working carers whose working day doesn’t end when they leave the office?

A working carer is defined as someone who is in full or part-time employment, but also provides unpaid support, or looks after a family member, partner or friend who needs help because of their age, physical or mental illness, or disability.1

The COVID pandemic has significantly increased the number of working carers in the UK – one in five people are now working carers, up from one in seven. But working and caring alongside each other can be very difficult, and in fact one in five carers say they are at risk of reducing their working hours, or giving up work altogether.2

Here are some ways you can provide extra support for your working carers to ensure they stay happy, healthy and motivated at work.

Flexible working for carers

Carers juggle their working day with the need to provide care, so it’s likely that on some occasions they will need time away from work that might be unplanned or last minute.

In the UK, any employee can request flexible working after they have worked for your company for 26 weeks (the rules are different in Northern Ireland). However the Department for Business, Enterprise and Industrial Strategy is consulting on plans to enable every employee to make one request for flexible working per year, regardless of when they started their job – and give working carers the right to take an extra week of unpaid leave per year.3

Some companies offer different kinds of flexible working for their employees. Rather than sticking to a strict nine to five day, timescales are more flexible provided employees get their work done. In addition, if an employee needs time off, but not enough to add up to a whole day or even a half day of annual leave, some employers allow them to make up the time later.

Internal training and support for working carers

It’s also important to ensure your other employees are trained on how to support working carers. Line managers should provide initial support to carers, particularly when they need time off to provide care, or to arrange flexible working hours. Therefore, managers need to be aware of who the carers are in their teams, and the problems they face day-to-day, so they can provide appropriate support.

Caring can also be emotionally draining and stressful for your employee. So it’s a good idea to train staff on how to identify signs and symptoms of stress and mental ill health. This means any employee experiencing problems can be identified, and the right support can be provided before their health deteriorates.

Carers’ benefits

Two-thirds of working carers still worry about a lack of understanding and support from employers.However, if your business already has employee benefits in place, it should be able to offer support, for example:

  • Employee assistance programmes

    Many companies have Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs) that could offer counselling for your working carers if they feel stressed or overwhelmed.
  • Unpaid leave for working carers

    You could also offer additional unpaid leave for carers so they can manage their responsibilities.

  • Financial support or education for working carers

    Although unpaid leave may be vital, carers may find this difficult financially, especially alongside their caring responsibilities. You could offer some kind of financial support for carers, or even financial education to help them manage their finances and prepare for unexpected difficulties.


1. https://everymindatwork.com/working-carers-report/
2. https://www.workingwise.co.uk/pandemic-leads-to-big-increase-in-working-carers/
3. https://www.personneltoday.com/hr/day-one-right-to-request-flexible-working-consultation-confirmed/
4. https://www.homecare.co.uk/news/article.cfm/id/1660501/two-thirds-working-carers

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