The University recognises that some carers' needs are broader than childcare responsibilities and that the circumstances and milestones of caring are different from those of childcare.

For example, staff who have elder care responsibilities face a number of difficult issues as do those who have a disabled dependant. A member of staff may acquire caring responsibilities over time, for example when the individual's partner has a debilitating long-term health condition. An elderly relative may become more frail and dependent over time and a disabled child may continue to have significant support needs when they become an adult. Caring responsibilities can also occur at short notice, for example following a stroke or other unexpected event.

Staff who care for elderly/disabled dependants have to combine work and managing their career with their caring commitments, which creates competing demands on their time, energy and emotional resources and causes disruption to family and work life.

Carers may face added physical and financial burdens; many may still be bringing up children. Those with elder care responsibilities face coming to terms emotionally with the physical and/or mental decline of a loved one, which may make them more aware of their own ageing process while, in some cases, experiencing a general decline in their own health and fitness levels.

The University recognises these increased demands and aims to provide a supportive environment and approach to the needs of carers. This guidance sets out some of the practical assistance that may be adopted.

The University provides an employee assistance scheme - Health Assured - for staff which is a confidential advisory service.

Carers UK and Carers Trust are two external organisations that also provide support and advice to individuals with elder carer responsibilities.

What issues are carers dealing with?

The activities that carers undertake are wide ranging and may include the following:

  • Help with personal care
  • Help with mobility
  • Managing medication
  • Practical household tasks
  • Emotional support
  • Help with financial matters or paperwork
  • Putting care arrangements in place to enable a close relative to continue living at home
  • Getting a parent out of bed and dressed before work, making their dinner after work, then returning at night to put them to bed
  • Answering personal alarm calls at all hours of the day or night

What carers may really need

What staff with caring responsibilities may need, above anything else is the ability to work flexibly. They may need to take more time off work than staff who do not have caring responsibilities. Carers also need reassurance that their requests are reasonable.

How to support carers

Every situation is different and the commitments of each individual with caring responsibilities will vary widely, including the type of job they do and the level of care they provide, which may be subject to sudden change. It will be helpful to:

  • Discuss the member of staff's needs with them
  • Encourage staff to be open about their situation. It is difficult to offer the appropriate support if the manager is not aware of what the individual is dealing with
  • Ensure staff are aware of their leave entitlements

Important considerations

  • Carers cannot always plan when they need time off and may be called away at short notice
  • Their first priority will be to the person they are caring for
  • Work can often be a respite for staff who are carers
  • Carers may not recognise symptoms of stress within themselves

Working flexibly

The ability to work flexibly is likely to be important for carers. Sometimes managers may be unsure if this is permissible. Managers are encouraged to adopt a positive approach to staff who have care responsibilities and where possible, will agree to requests for flexible working to accommodate caring responsibilities. Where this is not possible, other alternatives to individual working arrangements may be considered. This may include the following:

  • Change to start and finish times
  • Swapping working days from time to time

For longer term situations, staff may wish to consider the University's Flexible Working Policy in the context of increased demands placed on them by caring for relatives.

Emergency Leave

Emergency leave may be available and is covered under leave in special circumstances

Taking special leave

The University recognises that there may be a number of circumstances where it is not an emergency situation, where carers wish to provide support for an elderly or disabled relative.

In these circumstances, members of staff may apply to take up to one week unpaid leave in the course of one year. This is also covered under leave in special circumstances.

Other practical support

In discussion with the member of staff, it will be helpful to get a good understanding of their specific needs. Other forms of support include:

  • Allowing staff to be able to answer their personal phones during working hours
  • Agreeing a contingency if they are called away at short notice
  • Making a referral to Occupational Health if you have any concerns about their health of wellbeing
  • Seeking support from your HR Advisor if necessary

End of care

At some point the member of staff may no longer have a caring role. This may be because the person they cared for has moved on in one way or another, eg. they may have had to go into a residential or nursing home, or sadly, they may have died.

Whenever the end of care happens, it is important for managers and colleagues to be aware that the member of staff may need time to adjust and make plans for their future. They may be grieving, feeling guilty or have financial concerns. They may need extra support at work. It will be helpful for managers to be prepared to discuss their needs with them and to offer support if possible. If a manager is concerned about the health or wellbeing of a member of staff, they should consider discussing this with their HR Advisor who can offer support and discuss whether referring the individual to Occupational Health may be helpful.

Further advice and support

Well@York, provides a wealth of information for staff on keeping well some aspects of which may be of particular help to individuals with caring responsibilities.

If a manager needs any further information or specific advice, they should contact their HR Advisor

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  • Last reviewed: 31 March 2016