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How your employer can retain the skills of working carers

By Kathy Lawrence

We’ve come a long way in recognising the needs of parents at work. Now in an ageing population it’s time to help at those caring for elders or risk losing experienced and talented staff. Forward-thinking organisations have already started implementing policies to retain staff who care and provide ideas that we can put to our employers.

Sometimes trying to juggle work and caring for others gets too much. Employees leave and the business loses their skills and experience.

Sometimes staff keep trying to juggle and end up doing nothing as well as they would like.

But there are ways that employers can support staff with caring responsibilities that can help to lift the load and make sure everyone can give the performance to which they aspire.

Here are ten suggestions you can put before your HR department or senior managers.

1. Join the effort to make eldercare as important as childcare. Employers have worked hard to drive the availability and quality of childcare and to support childcare policies within their businesses. Eldercare is a different challenge, but in an ageing population needs to be addressed openly.

2. Create an environment where employees feel comfortable with going public on the difficulties they may have caring and working. If the company culture is that you’ve got to be seen and heard in the office to be believed, it’s time that changed. Otherwise staff will continue to use holiday and sick days to manage their caring roles.

3. While you’re there, challenge a culture that says younger people are better than older workers because they have more energy and learn faster. With an ageing population our workforce is going become skewed to more mature workers. It’s time to look more carefully at the benefits of a multi-generational workforce and make sure employment and training programmes reflect that. Extend the diversity policy to take age into account.

4. Get buy-in from senior management by creating a case that demonstrates the value of retaining skilled, experienced workers rather than letting them head off into the sunset when the going gets tough.

5. Look at working practices to see where greater flexibility can be created. Can part-time working, job shares, and emergency days off policies be implemented?

6. Identify those employees who are carers and ask them what they need to help them balance life successfully. Invite them to join panels or get involved in setting up carer communities.

7. Set up internal networks so that employee carers can support each other. Facilitate meetings with invited speakers as well as regular get-togethers, and set up a hub on the intranet.

8. Provide a portal with information such as we offer on When They Get Older – mixing key facts and signposts with case studies and commentary.

9. Instigate regular career reviews as a positive action, so that those who do feel they would like to step away from highly responsible roles while they care can do so without being relegated or become redundant.

10. Help ease stresses and strains within a corporate well-being policy.

And an 11th point. Don’t fall at the first hurdle by thinking this is all the stuff of dreams. Many of these ideas are based on strategies already work at Centrica and other leading employers. There are plenty more HR managers eager to address the challenges and realise the opportunities of retaining staff who care. May yours be one of them.

If you found this article interesting, you may like to read:

Case study: supporting dementia carers at work

How can flexible working hours help me be a carer too?

Tips on juggling work and parents with dementia – a real life story

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