A joint event from Carer Positive and VOCAL

Alongside Carer Positive, we were pleased to hold an event for employers across Scotland on Tuesday 7 June during Carers Week. It was a fantastic discussion, bringing together 24 attendees and five speakers, all with the shared goals of supporting unpaid carers in the workplace and ensuring that balancing work and employment can be possible.

The event opened with a presentation from Sue McLintock who set the scene with this powerful statement:

“There are very few people who are working that are unlikely to be touched by caring at some point in their lives.”

It was clear from the figures shared, that caring is not a ‘specialist’ consideration for employers and that everyone should consider what unpaid caring is, and add it to their vocabulary in the workplace.

As we know, the COVID-19 pandemic brought major changes to the way we work, which has particularly impacted flexible working and our approach to employment as a society. With our new found focused interest in ways of working, we were joined by Donna Reynolds, Partner at Blackadders Solicitors who covered the rights of carers in the workplace and the legal duties of employers. Donna stated:

“A great deal of employers don’t know how to deal with carers in the workplace or more specifically deal with the situations that carers present in the workplace.”

As explained by Donna, carers’ leave, compassionate leave, parental leave, time off for dependents, and flexible working policies must not only be in existence within an organisation but implemented effectively, and revisited regularly. She raised an excellent point that employers do not need to wait for UK Government policy changes to support carers in the workplace with tangible benefits and support packages.

Denise Turnbull, Phoenix Group and Louise Guy, Scottish Water, shared their personal experiences of caring and how their employer supported them. Both Phoenix Group and Scottish Water are great representation of how a carer network can work within an organisation, and how offering benefits such as paid carers’ leave can be a saviour in times of uncertainty.

Many attendees felt that identification in the workplace remained their biggest challenge, with Louise sharing that in their staff survey to the question ‘Do you have a caring role’ had the highest number of people selecting ‘I prefer not to answer’ from across all questions about diversity.

It is important that when asking employees to identify as a carer that you are clear about why you are asking this question and how this information will be used. As well as this, taking the following steps can support carers to identify themselves and foster a supportive carer culture:

  • Make policies relevant to carers easily accessible – they should not be available ‘upon request
  • Share case studies from carers in the workplace
  • Train and educate your staff and line managers on what unpaid caring is and the challenges it brings
  • Establish internal supports, such as a carers network, to create peer connection opportunities

The event was closed by Richard Meade, Director of Carers Scotland who shared that employers need to do things differently and better:

“We don’t need legislation. Good organisations can start now.”

We appreciate the time taken by all of the speakers and employers who joined us for the event and those who have committed to making carers visible, valued and supported in the workplace and continue to champion carers’ rights on a daily basis.

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