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Carers week 9th June: Acas urges businesses to help employees who juggle work and caring responsibilities

Monday 09 June 2008

Three million people in the UK are juggling work with caring responsibilities.

Acas, the employment relations specialists, is urging employers to help carers within their companies or organisations ahead of Carers week which starts on the 9th June.

Evidence shows that work is important for carers own wellbeing, social inclusion and financial benefits. The theme for Carers week is 'Carers can't afford to be ill'. Many Carers are often too pre-occupied or worried about the person they care for to look after their own wellbeing, and if they become ill they are not only unable to look after their dependent but also cannot go to work, impacting negatively on businesses.

The trend of combining work and caring responsibilities is not a short-term issue and is set to continue. Some businesses already have flexible working policies in place and evidence shows it not only benefits the employees but also the employers through increased productivity, reduced overheads, and improved staff retention rates.

Gill Trevelyan, Head of Training and Equality Services at Acas, said:

"Employers should be aware of anyone in their organisation who has caring responsibilities and make sure they are familiar with the regulations and any company policies that apply to carers.

"Often carers try and cope alone and don't seek help until it gets too much. We would advise employers to speak to carers within their organisation to see if there are ways they can help them resolve any challenges they may be having balancing work and caring responsibilities. This will not only ease the burden for the carer but in the long-run can benefit businesses by reducing absence."

Parents with children under the age of six or disabled children under the age of eighteen, have the right to apply to their employer to work more flexibly, and this also applies to the carers of adults. So if you are a business with employees who are also carer's what should you do? Acas suggests this five-point action plan:

  • Knowledge - know where you stand as an employer - find out about the regulations that apply to carers and review your company policies
  • Listen - to the situation from the employee's perspective. This will help you to understand their circumstances and recognise what pressure they are under from their caring responsibilities
  • Talk - discuss the options not only with the employee but also their colleagues and consider what changes to their work pattern i.e. introducing flexible working, may have on their colleagues and the business as a whole
  • Be objective - if considering an application or multiple applications for carers to request flexible working it is important to remain objective and not let emotions cloud your judgement
  • Take action - this may involve accepting a request for flexible working, discussing a compromise or rejecting the request. If the request is rejected it is important to set out clear business reasons for the rejection.

Further information

Visit our advice section on Parents and carers, alternatively Employers and employees can also call our free helpline on 08457 47 47 47.

Definition of a carer:

The Work and Families Act defines a carer as an employee who is or expects to be caring for an adult who:

  • is married to, or the partner or civil partner of the employee; or
  • is a relative of the employee; or
  • falls into neither category but lives at the same address as the employee.

Notes to editors

Acas' aim is to improve organisations and working life through better employment relations. It provides information, advice, training and a range of services working with employers and employees to prevent or resolve problems and improve performance. It is an independent statutory body governed by a Council consisting of the Acas Chair and employer, trade union and independent members.

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Source of research:

Census 2001