Time to look after the carers


Time to look after the carers

Three million people work and care in the UK – that’s one person in nine in every workplace – and this figure is set to increase

One in six carers have to give up work or reduce their hours to care. Carers don’t only look after elderly and/or disabled parents – they are often responsible for partners, children or other close relatives. 

Prospect reps at the union’s national conference in 2018 discussed the issue and highlighted how difficult it is for carers when they are called away at short notice to deal with urgent situations.

It was pointed out that very often, staff policies do not give adequate guidance to help staff – or their managers – who find themselves in this situation.

It is therefore important that where workplaces do not have policies covering “responsible for care” situations, they should be introduced or the relevant sections of existing policies should be updated.

Prospect equality officer Sandie Maile said: “We’re keen to help employers recognise the benefits of retaining carers in their employment, which includes carers’ passports and an approach to flexible working that benefits everyone.

“If you think your employer needs a nudge in this direction, speak to your workplace reps or full-time officer.”

In the civil service, more than 67,000 staff – 23% of the workforce – identified as carers in its 2017 people survey, and we expect that figure to be matched in other sectors.

In a blog to coincide with 2018 carers’ week, Rupert McNeil, the government chief people officer, pointed out that not everyone recognises that the term carer applies to them.

“They may see themselves as doing what anyone would do in the circumstances – caring, unpaid, for a loved one or friend. If this is the case, the person ‘doing’ the caring may not ask for help and can miss out on vital support.”

He added that supporting carers benefits both the carer and the workplace, making sure organisations don’t lose skills and experience.

With that in mind, the civil service human resources team drew up a carers’ passport.

This is essentially a conversation about the flexibility needed to combine work and care. The conversation involves balancing the needs of the employee with the needs of the business, within existing organisational policies.

The passport has three functions:

  • to support a conversation between an employee and their manager about the flexibilities which would help the employee combine caring and work
  • to act as a record of that conversation and of the flexibilities agreed
  • to prompt a further conversation, on an annual basis, to check whether circumstances have changed and new flexibilities need to be considered.

The aim is to minimise the need to renegotiate these flexibilities every time an employee moves post, moves between departments or is assigned a new manager.

The passport includes:

  • an overview of the employee’s caring responsibilities, including the impact this has on their working life and any further information to help the manager understand the impact of caring responsibilities on the employee and their work.
  • an overview of the employee’s role and team
  • flexibilities which would be helpful
  • flexibilities agreed between the employee and their manager with agreed actions and dates for implementation
  • any other actions agreed at the meeting, eg contacting the employee assistance programme for counselling or the local council for a carer’s assessment.

Does your employer have a policy and/or passport for carers? We’d love to hear from you.

Carers Week this year is 8-14 June, so why not speak to your Prospect reps about organising events to highlight the positive contribution of carers to the workplace and measures your employer has implemented to make their working lives easier.


Carers’ passport – bit.ly/carers-passport-form

Carers UK – carersuk.org/

Carers Week: 8-14 June – carersweek.org

Acas – acas.org.uk/making-a-flexible-working-request

Prospect guide to part-time and flexible working – library.prospect.org.uk/download/2006/00706

Prospect guide to parental and family leave – library.prospect.org.uk/download/2006/00705

Support for older people with roles as family carers. grandparentsplus.org.uk

Working Families – helps working parents and carers – workingfamilies.org.uk