Do you have a parent or grandparent still alive? Or a partner or sibling? What will happen if one of your loved ones becomes too ill or frail to look after themselves? 
 
Until it happens, most of us would probably prefer not to think about it. But imagine for a moment that one day, your previously independent relative can’t get out of bed unaided, or walk to the bathroom alone, or prepare a meal. Perhaps they are unsteady on their feet, and at risk of a fall. Perhaps their condition, or the medication used to treat it, makes them confused and forgetful. They are likely to need transporting to medical appointments, and help with day-to-day tasks such as shopping, cleaning and paying their bills. 
What would you do? How would you support them? Happy to leave it to a paid carer, or would you need to check on them regularly? Do you live close by? Are there others who could share the burden of caring? Would you dare tell your manager what was happening? Would your boss be understanding and tolerant of the situation? For how long? 
 
How often would you lay awake at night, worrying about what the future holds? Anxious about how you can juggle everything and still hold it together? How many times would your best laid plans be scuppered because of a problem such as a fall or a sudden change in health? 
 
Every day in the UK, around one in nine workers attempt to balance paid work with caring for a relative. 
 
One in nine! 
 
And this proportion is likely to increase as the population ages and life expectancy increases. 
 
A recent study by Carers UK found that 
 
Only 46% of carers felt their employers provided a carer-friendly environment. 
34% felt their employers failed to consider their needs or provide adequate support. 
52% believed that caring responsibilities affected their career progression and 
63% believed those working flexibly are seen as less committed by their company and colleagues. 
75% said a lack of support from their bosses made it more difficult to balance work and caring. 
 
The figures make depressing reading. But it doesn’t have to be this way. 
 
Any one of your employees could find themselves in a caring situation, often without any warning. The level of care needed, and the impact on your business may be different for every employee, and may vary over time. 
 
Retaining good staff sometimes means supporting them during difficult times. You can help staff with caring responsibilities by: 
 
Being approachable, so that staff can talk to you about flexibility without worrying they will be seen as lacking commitment. 
Knowing your staff well, and being alert to changes in their behaviour, so that you can offer support without waiting to be asked. 
Being open to different ways of getting work done. This might include varying working hours, working from home, temporary reductions in hours, changing days off, compassionate leave, unpaid leave, changing responsibilities, extending deadlines and changing work allocations, to name just a few. 
Challenging anyone, at any level, who suggests that flexible working and commitment to the organisation are mutually exclusive. 
Recognising that caring needs change. Some are only temporary, while others may be caring for someone whose needs are increasing over time. Talk with your employee regularly, and be prepared to look at other options as their needs change. 
 
If you’d like a chat about making your workplace more carer-friendly, give me a call today. 
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