Often, caregivers take on the carer role while they are still working, whether full time or part-time. In many cases, people who find themselves in this situation like to keep their two roles separate. They may worry that their employers think they are too distracted to do well at work, or they may just simply prefer to keep their caregiving role private. However, while employees may not want to mention their caregiving role, it is inevitable that these two parts of their life will intersect.
For example, a caregiver may need a more flexible work schedule, or have more absences than usual that they have to explain to their superior. In some cases, they may even have to take a significant leave of absence in order to care for their loved one. While an employer may not know where to start in this situation, it’s important that they have procedures in place so that they can adequately support their employee.
As an employer, the following are some key pieces of information that may be of use to you in supporting both your business and any employee caregivers.
Firstly, Supporting Employee Caregivers Is Good For Business
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers (SDAC), in 2015, 1 in 9 Australians (2.7 million people) were informal carers. This means that, depending on the size of your business, a number of people in your workforce are likely to be taking on a caregiving role, whether you know about it or not. Many employee caregivers are between the ages of 45 to 65, which means that they are in their peak earning years, with valuable skills and experience that is of benefit to your business. As such, developing strategies that support employee caregivers so that they can continue to work can help your business keep skilled workers, which decreases recruiting and training costs, and ensures the employee maintains a financial income.
Recognise the Important Role of Employee Caregivers
Many caregivers are hesitant to come forward in their workplace and talk about their caregiving role due to a concern over how it will be perceived. In order to overcome this, it is important to first understand the characteristics of caregivers, the types of help they provide, and how their caregiving role may impact their lives. On the basis of this understanding, employers can create a supportive environment as part of the holistic business philosophy. This can involve educating others in the team, updating relevant policies and programs, and ensuring the HR department is equipped with the knowledge and tools that they need to respond to the requirements of employee caregivers.
Offer Flexibility to Caregivers
The needs of an employee caregiver will vary depending on the role that they have taken on, as such, providing flexible work options is essential. There are a variety of work options that are currently used by employers across Australia, such as flexi-time, telecommuting, job sharing, compressed workweek, personal days off, and flexible work locations.
Arm Caregivers with Information
Employee caregivers should be made aware of any resources that are available to them. It can be useful to put together an information pack specifically for employee caregivers that includes information and links to resources. This could be hosted on an internal network, distributed through corporate digital communications, or stored physically within the HR department. For caregivers, knowing how to access information and who to reach out to for support is essential. Caregivers Australia is a great source for finding this information.
Know Your Legal Obligations
Australian Law prohibits discrimination based on family status. This extends to a person’s family caregiving responsibilities. This means that if it is necessary for an employee to care for a family member, their employer is, in many cases, legally obliged to accommodate them. This can be done primarily through flexible work arrangements that enable employees to care for their family member while continuing to do their job.
The number of employee caregivers is likely to increase as the population ages and we live longer, and Australian employers are likely to feel the impact. Taking action early will help your business prepare for the future. Employers should focus on the benefits of keeping their valuable, skilled workers and help their employees to stay healthy and productive. This can be achieved through creating a supportive work environment that recognises and responds to the unique needs of employees, and in particular, employee caregivers.
Caregiving is a difficult but important role. If you are caring for an older person, it’s important to remember that you’re not in it alone. A quick Internet search can show you places to go for help, advice and support. Attending a Brain Sparks workshop can also help you with some of the responsibilities that you take on.