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Employers urged not to neglect carers, ahead of new law

With the Carer’s Leave Bill receiving Royal Assent and due to become law in 2024, the Government has recognised the number of working carers who need support. Towergate Health & Protection is urging employers to act now to ensure they can deliver the changes and provide the necessary support for their employees who are carers.

With the Carer’s Leave Bill receiving Royal Assent and due to become law in 2024, the Government has recognised the number of working carers who need support. Employers are being urged to act now to ensure they can deliver the changes and provide the necessary support for their employees who are carers.

The Carer’s Leave Act 2023 will create regulations that will entitle employees to at least one week of leave a year to provide or arrange care for a dependant with a long-term care need. This right will exist from day one of employment. However, Towergate Health & Protection is saying this is just one possible step in supporting carers.

Debra Clark, head of wellbeing at Towergate Health & Protection says, “Employers can use the forthcoming Carer’s Leave Act as an instigator to look at the support they currently provide for carers and where this could be improved or enhanced. Giving the right support at work can mitigate the need for carers to take additional time off.”

Scale of the problem
More than one in seven people in the workforce is a carer. This means that millions of employees across the UK are having to juggle their work with an unpaid caring role. It is reported that, on average, 600 employees per day resign from their paid employment to be able to care for a loved one, and 75% of carers in employment worry about continuing to juggle work and care. This dual responsibility impacts every area of an employee’s wellbeing, from mental and physical to social and financial health.

Specialist support needed
Caring covers a wide spectrum of physical and mental care for the elderly and those of all ages with special needs or neurodiversity. Navigating the care system can be especially difficult for those who are new to the situation. There is help and funding available, but knowing what there is and where to find it can be challenging and time-consuming.

Employers can provide access to specialists in carer support who can help, for instance with searching for the right care homes, home help, or respite care. Experts in navigating the assessment and care system can provide guidance on what is available and how to access facilities. This can include help with securing funding or specialist education. Helplines and information on eldercare may come as an added-value element of cash plans and group risk policies, as well as through employee assistance programmes (EAPs) and specialist care advisers. Providing access to this sort of support through the workplace helps to remove pressure from the employee, allows them to focus on their work, and makes them feel that they are not alone.

Support all four pillars of wellbeing
Supporting all four pillars of health and wellbeing is vital for working carers. Providing opportunities for socialising and physical exercise are very important, as are financial education and mental health support. Being able to continue to work will help with the financial circumstances of the carer and is good for their mental health too.

The emotional impact on unpaid carers is huge. Employers are in a position to be able to help with the anxiety, stress and isolation of being a working carer. Access to mental health support can be made available through a number of avenues, including employee assistance programmes (EAPs), which can provide guidance and counselling. Mental health first aiders are an asset to any company, and they may be able to spot when a carer is particularly struggling. Apps for health, fitness, and mindfulness can help carers to balance their lives and keep on top of the pressures.

Enabling flexible working where possible is a simple option that can be of huge benefit to carers. Line managers being aware will reduce the stress of trying to manage this and work in isolation

Debra Clark continued: “The physical and mental strain on employees who are also carers is immense. However, with the support of their employer, it does not need to be so detrimental to their work. A supportive employer will be better able to attract and retain staff who are also carers, enabling employees to still be able to work whilst they have caring responsibilities and bringing financial benefits to the business both short and long term.”

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