This is a guest blog article written by Julie Sykes, MD of JCS HR Consulting. If you’d like specific advice on the topic, Julie and her team can be contacted on 01484 602708, via email@example.com or at their website www.jcs-hr.co.uk.
Taking care of the carers
Employers can support their businesses by helping staff with extra caring responsibilities outside work.
Supporting employees caring for disabled children or elderly relatives might not seem the highest priority in difficult times. But employers have a legal obligation to do this, and cuts in local authority finances are likely to make it harder – and more time consuming – for parents of children with special needs, for example, to get the right level of support. Ensuring that your staff are aware of the help available to them could result in less employee work time being lost as a result, as well as improved staff loyalty.
Under the Employment Rights Act 1996, employees who have been with their employer for more than six months have the right to request flexible working if they have caring obligations for dependants, such as disabled children under 18, or elderly relatives. Although employers are not required to grant such a request, they must:
- give it genuine consideration
- call a meeting to discuss it, if they are unable to simply agree to it
- have a real business reason if they have to turn the request down
Failing to do so could lead to a tribunal claim. The other risk faced by employers is a claim under the Equality Act if they discriminate against an employee because one of their dependants has a disability (or indeed any other aspect protected by the Act)
Going the extra mile
Caring for a disabled child or relative places a lot of strain on employees, taking up a lot of their time and almost all of their emotional energy. This inevitably has an impact on their work not to mention their work-life balance. Understanding your obligations in this area is one thing, but if you are able to better understand the issues being faced, and to offer some practical advice or possible solutions you are likely to reduce the potential burden on your business and improve employee contribution and loyalty.
Independent support could significantly reduce the amount of work hours spent, or time off taken off, by employees to deal with all the issues of trying to ensure that their children or relatives get the support they need.
It makes good business sense – as well as demonstrating the kind of approach that employees are increasingly seeking from their employers – to be in a position to offer advice on sources of support. Employers with staff going through this process can get advice and support from charities such as Independent Parental Special Educational Advice and the National Autistic Society. Age UK can be helpful for carers of elderly relatives.
Julie’s article highlights some really important topics, both with regards to obligations as well as to additional help an employer can give to an employee in this siutation.
Doesn’t it make sense to go that extra mile and help employees, both to make sure their needs are looked after and to ensure your business doesn’t suffer?