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How businesses can prepare for incoming Carer’s Leave Act

Balancing work and care responsibilities can be difficult to manage, and with the average person now having a 50:50 chance of caring for someone by the age of 50[1], support from the workplace is becoming a necessity.

Balancing work and care responsibilities can be difficult to manage, and with the average person now having a 50:50 chance of caring for someone by the age of 50[1], support from the workplace is becoming a necessity.

The Carer’s Leave Act, due to pass into law in early 2024, will give working carers the right to take one week of unpaid leave per year for caregiving. This is an important step in the right direction for employees, but Human Resources (HR) and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I) teams alike need to recognise its importance and take early action for this incoming law. Here are some key ways HR and DE&I teams can effectively prepare for The Carer’s Leave Act:

Management training
Allowing yourself enough time to train line managers on both administrative and communication requirements will benefit the managers and employees alike.

Administrative training should focus on new internal procedures to follow, such as details on benchmarking and the new process for applying for leave on behalf of a line report. Communication training may be done more holistically, with management engaging in certain role-playing exercises to ensure they are equipped with the most appropriate responses for as many scenarios as possible.

Diversity training
Training sessions in cultural, gender, and neurodivergence bias will help people managers better understand the reason ‘why’ line reports may need to use the un-paid leave, without having to directly ask them why.

Useful assets to support diversity training include Cultural Calendars (sometimes called Diversity Calendars) that predominantly help employees learn about and appreciate religious, cultural and historical events in addition to those that are traditionally adhered to, such as Christian and English holidays. For The Carer’s Leave Act, it will help line managers plan for upcoming holidays that may impact their line report’s caring responsibilities. For example, an employee may need to increase caring responsibilities for elderly or vulnerable family members during the month-long dawn-to-sunset fasting of Ramadan.

Focus on trust and transparency
Nurturing a workplace environment built on trust and transparency will aid the terms of the new Act. One practical way of enabling this is by creating a clear company policy on the guidelines for The Carer’s Leave Act that will reduce misinterpretations between line managers and their reports. This is so employees know exactly what they are entitled to and what is expected from them so their manager can effectively support them with their leave.

HR teams can lean on other internal experts to help build trust. For example, at Benenden Health we have a ‘Junior Board’, which is a cross-functional team of non-board member employees that input into important business policies and projects. With a recent survey showing only 25% of workers in the UK have ‘full trust’ in their company leadership[2], it’s important to include peer-level employees in key policies such as this one.

Company benefits
Take time to review company benefits to see if there’s any that could help employees immediately, as well as identify whether there is room for improving current benefits to compliment The Act more.

Private healthcare provision is a benefit that could help employees with caring responsibilities, rather than solely on physical health needs.

New research from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation recently found that unpaid carers experience an average pay penalty of £487 per month, or nearly £6,000 per year[3]. HR teams could consider introducing or expanding current financial benefits such as employee discount schemes to help employees save money elsewhere on things such as their weekly food shops, to larger-ticket purchases such as technological equipment and white goods.

The Carer’s Leave Act is, first and foremost, to support the needs of employees who are unpaid carers. Welcoming this to your business has also been found to support productivity, morale, retention and recruitment, making it a mutually beneficial policy.

[1] Will I Care? The likelihood of being a carer in adult life | Carers UK

[2] LumApps Research: Only 25% of UK workforce fully trusts their company leadership

[3] Carers being pushed into poverty, losing nearly £9,000 a year on average after six years of caring | JRF

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