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Work-life balance for working carers and employers

Since April 2018 I’ve been working with the Greater Manchester Health & Social Care Partnership as Independent Chair of the Greater Manchester (GM) Carers Strategic Group. This group is overseeing the work underway to improve support for carers across the 10 localities which make up Greater Manchester. My first blog about this work and my motivation to improve support was published during Carers week in June 2018. Carers week 2018

Today, November 30 2018,  is Carers Rights Day and I’d like to share with you some thoughts behind the development of an excellent publication called the Working Carers Toolkit for employers which is being launched today. GM supporting employers to support working carers

hurry-2119711_1280If you Google ‘Work life balance’ lots of advice appears as to how to achieve a good balance of your time and energy in work and in your personal life. There are plenty of tips for managing your time well at work and not letting work invade your personal time and other challenges in people achieving a good work-life balance

If you then factor in that 1 in 9 of the workforce across the UK combine caring for a loved one with paid work out of the home then the problem of trying to achieve any kind of balance is magnified. In Greater Manchester it is estimated that around 142,000 employees (ONS Census, 2011) have additional, unpaid, caring responsibilities in the home.

It is not surprising that many working carers end up exhausted or become ill themselves trying to juggle the demands of paid work and caring, never mind having any kind of personal life themselves. Many will eventually drop out of paid work altogether and Carers UK reported in 2017 that in their survey, 4 out of 10 carers had given up paid work completely to care for a loved one at home. Employers are also losing people with significant, valuable skills and experience which are then lost to organisations and the overall economy.

Every carer’s situation and job requirements are different and individual but there is no doubt that there are some things that employers can do to enable them to retain experienced staff and for staff to feel supported in juggling their job and carer responsibilities such as:

  • Use of technology to work from home or dial into meetings where short notice caring responsibilities prevent them coming into the office
  • Being able to have access to a telephone and privacy to make calls related to their caring role
  • Flexibility in working arrangements around medical appointments for the person they care for, taking time off and then working replacement hours at a later time

I well remember the feelings of guilt of often leaving work early in Manchester on Fridays and driving down to Worcestershire to support my father in caring for my mother and then leaving at 5.00am on Monday morning to drive straight back into work.

I worried about being preoccupied at work due to stress and worry as my mother was approaching end of life care and was I doing enough to help my father and mother in the limited time I could physically be there with them both? In those last 3 years of my mother’s life there were also many emergency dashes up and down the M6 as my mother experienced crises, emergency admissions to hospital and where her life hung in the balance on many occasions. I juggled leave to make up some of the shortfall, made frequent phone calls in the times I wasn’t physically there with them and generally muddled through some of the worst times of my life.

Each working carer has their own story and challenges to relate and many like me will enjoy their jobs and want to keep them. Equally employers want to retain their staff and many can be unaware of the often hidden struggles that many staff experience until they reach crisis level and decide to leave.

Supporting working carers in Greater Manchester

 As part of the work underway across Greater Manchester to improve support for carers this Friday November 30 – Carer’s Rights Day- sees the launch of the  GM Working Carers Toolkit – interactive version  for employers which provides support for employers using insight from the association of Directors of Adult Social Services in England(ADASS) and what working carers have related from their experiences.

In summary the toolkit describes, and evidences why supporting working carers is both good for carers and good for business.

In the toolkit practice tips, suggestions and resources for employers are provided which draw on reports based on feedback from working carers in Greater Manchester through the work of the Greater Manchester Health & Social Care Partnership, from Carers UK, Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development(CIPD) and ADASS.

A key part of the support that will be available in Greater Manchester will be the opportunity to take advantage of the umbrella membership of  Employers for Carers from Carers UK, for Local Authorities, partner organisations and Chambers of Commerce to enable Small and Medium sized enterprises(SMEs) to gain free access to the wealth of resources available.

A customised website for Greater Manchester is being set up which also has provision for each locality to have their own pages too so that initiatives specific to different areas can be tailored to them as well as offering future opportunities to share experiences and learning across the region.

So do take a look at the information available from November 30 2018, and if you’re an employer in Greater Manchester, I’d encourage you to take advantage of the  Greater Manchester Working Carer Toolkit for employers (print version)  and especially check out the simple, short, self- assessment tool at the end to reflect on what you currently know, and do for your employees who are carers.

Remember supporting working carers is: photo-High fives





If you want to hear more about the work underway in Greater Manchester to improve support for carers you can get a brief overview from a recent BMJ podcast where I talked with  Anya de longh BMJ Patient Editor here: Carers Need a Voice

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