Balancing employment and caring for a family member or friend.

For many carers, the workplace provides a sense of identity, independence and a break from their caring role, in addition to financial security. However, having caring responsibilities can make working difficult.

In previous blogs we have discovered our rights as employees with caring responsibilities, how to go about requesting flexible working arrangements and taking time off in an emergency. Here we explore the questions many carers ask us.

‘Should I tell my employer about my caring responsibilities’…
Generally it is beneficial to tell your employer that you are a carer as it gives them a chance to support you and to understand what you are dealing with outside of work. Your employer might have carer friendly policies that help you achieve a better work/life balance. This is worth checking out.
Many companies and organisations are starting to recognise home care in the same way as childcare, and becoming more supportive when issues present a challenge for employees.
It is in your employer’s interest to support their employees. This increases productivity and saves on costs connected to people being off sick and leaving work.

‘How can I communicate well with my employer’…
It’s not always easy to speak about your personal life at work and some managers are more understanding of caring issues than others.
It helps if you are as clear as possible about what you would like from your manager. For example, would it help to be able to answer the phone during work time? Do you need flexibility around attending appointments? Should there be back up plan, who could replace you on short notice at work? Some employers may use a Carers Passport to record the agreement.
If you find it difficult to talk to your manager wait until you are as composed as possible and use whatever helps you to communicate well. For example write things down or bring a friend to the meeting. Caring might only be for a limited time. Don’t make any rash decision about giving up work without looking at the long term perspective and consider what is best for you.

‘I feel guilty’…
Many working carers feel guilty about needing extra support at work or are worried about letting the team down or not pulling their weight. It’s good to remember that most of us have caring responsibilities at some stage in our lives and it is OK to accept support during that time. It’s also good to remember that through your caring role you gain and improve skills, for example; time management or staying focused under pressure.
Those are transferable skills and will benefit your employer and your team.

Information and guidance
If you need support, information or advice, contact the Carers Advice Line on 0113 380 4300. It’s open Monday to Friday: 9am to 4.30pm and Wednesday: 8am to 6.30pm.

You might find a carers passport (work support plan) useful. You can download a carers passport template here which could help you to speak to your employer.

Carers Leeds also works closely with employers to improve access to support for working carers, provide training, influence policy and exchange good practice.
If your employer would like to find out more about how their business can best support working carers, employers can contact Madlen Sayar, Working Carers Service Co-ordinator on 0113 246 8338.