As an employer, it is important to understand why caring is having a growing impact on Australian workplaces and staff wellbeing.
The impact of care will affect all of us in our lives, either as parents, carers and/or as people being cared for. A carer is someone who provides unpaid care and support to family members and friends who are living with a disability, mental health challenge, chronic condition, terminal illness, an alcohol or drug dependency, or who are frail aged.
As of 2018, there were 2.65 million carers in Australia with 70% of these working-age carers employed. As we see advances in healthcare, our population is now living longer and this means the number of carers we see within our nation will continue to grow. Considering the impact this may have on your staff members who are caring can help organisations and businesses stay ahead of the trend by providing adequate workplace provisions for employees.
Maintaining paid work and an unpaid caring role can cause a significant amount of stress to carers balancing these responsibilities. The nature and intensity of the caring role can vary significantly from person to person. Carers of someone with a physical disability or impairment may provide assistance with bathing, dressing, and physical mobility, while those who care for someone with a mental health challenge may manage symptoms, provide emotional support and assist with domestic tasks. Some carers looking after family members with chronic conditions often play a key role in medical treatment including taking the person to and from appointments, administering medications, monitoring vital signs and managing wounds and dressings. Each carer will have different needs but the support they may need from an employer will often come down to flexible workplace provisions.
Carers are more likely to stay with an employer if their needs for flexibility and support are met. Without adequate support, carers report higher stress and work-life strain that impacts their health, wellbeing and productivity at work. Implementing carer-friendly provisions is, therefore essential to enabling businesses to foster a productive, efficient and effective workforce.
Currently, under the Fair Work Act 2009 (FW Act), employees who have been with their employers for at least 12 months on a full or part-time basis have a legal right to request flexible working arrangements. Long term casual employees who have a reasonable expectation of ongoing employment are also eligible. There are specific circumstances in which an employee is then eligible to request flexible working arrangements including if the employee is a carer as defined by the Carer Recognition Act 2010.
Looking after your staff member’s wellbeing is part of your duty of care as an employer. Providing straight forward information about leave provisions, the Carer Recognition Act 2010 and the opportunity to work flexibly is a great place to start.
Carers WA are able to provide information and resources on how supporting and retaining employees in a caring role can benefit your workplace. We can also assist with implementing a Carer Action Plan which can enable your organisation to be accredited as a Carer Friendly Employer.
The more experienced a staff member, the higher the replacement costs if they leave. Employees are more likely to become carers between 45–64 years of age and failing to retain these experienced workers will represent a significant loss of resources and knowledge.
Invest in your employee retention.
The benefits of becoming a carer friendly workplace include:
Resources for employees
For carers who are working, whether that is full-time or part-time, there are a number of resources and Acts in place to help you balance both roles. Carers WA have created a resource to help you identify what you are entitled to from your employee, along with resources and supports available.