HR must encourage working carers to seek support

"It's time to ensure that carers are visible and valued," says consultant Tracey Liot

Encouraging employees who have caring responsibilities to get the support they need is essential.

Caring for a loved one in need is often taken on without the carer realising the enormity of the role, especially when it comes to caring for people who need long-term care.

Many individuals don’t self-identify as being a carer outside of work when they are also employees, particularly as caring is often unseen, is not given space to be discussed or is not valued in society. This can make it difficult for carers to know how to seek help and support in the workplace, or for people to know that they are entitled to help in the first place.

Read more: The chaos of unpaid caring while in employment

However, encouraging employees who have caring responsibilities to get the support they need is essential. This is not only because it is the right thing to do; if your employees are going straight from caring to work with no break or rest then carers can experience burn out and leave organisations or take long term sick leave.

Encouraging disclosure

Carers have a right to honour their heartfelt feelings in the workplace by disclosing the challenges they are experiencing and the adjustments that they need. Although HR teams can’t force disclosure, creating an open and safe culture will encourage carers to share their struggles, and give insight into the support they require.

Disclosure also gives employers an idea of the number of employees with caring responsibilities, which is set to increase due an ageing population.

However, HR leaders and line managers don’t always recognise the extent of caring that exists in organisations and therefore don't give space for employees to disclose or have open conversations of what caring responsibilities can be like outside of work.

Who employees disclose their caring responsibilities to is based on employees’ trust that carers won't be penalised for sharing. Building strong relationships at work is the key to creating this trust; when employees feel heard, they feel a sense of belonging and psychological safety. 

Therefore, it is important that line managers take the time to get to know individuals and who they are outside of work. This can be done through strong onboarding practices, as well as allocating time for regular communication. It is important to remember that employees can become carers at any point, so this issue affects existing staff too.

It is also essential to signpost existing support options, such as mental health support, carers leave and other reasonable adjustments, right from the recruitment stage. Thus gives clear visibility to the world that carers are welcome and rewarded, attracts new employees and retains your existing employees who may need support.

Read more: It's time to give back to working carers

Unique needs

There are many different ways that an employee might become a carer. A carer is anyone who cares, unpaid, for a friend or family member who due to illness, disability, a mental health problem or an addiction, cannot cope without their support.

Each carer will have different needs and requires an individualised support package. While some carers will need a set period of time off to deal with a short-term or emergency caring situation, others will benefit more from ongoing counselling through an EAP. Recognising this when signposting support will be a key way to encourage employees to look into how it could be helpful to their particular situation.

The support time scale is also different for each carer. Some individuals may be caring for years and require long-term support from HR and their managers. Other individuals may only require support for a short period. It is important that long term carers are continually checked on and appreciated, even though it may be assumed their situation has become ‘normal’, new challenges can arise and new support may be required.

But no matter the situation, Having clear communication, boundaries and choices from employers enables employees who are carers the opportunity to reach out for support that will help them fulfil their full potential inside and outside work, while maintaining their own wellbeing. 

As caring sets to increase with an ageing population, now is the time to ensure carers are visible, valued and on the map.


Tracey Liot is an inclusive workplace consultant