Caring – like charity – begins at home. I’m impressed that Bright Horizons has been recognised as one of the UK’s Best Workplaces for 12 consecutive years. To get such a prestigious listing repeatedly means you care for your employees. Its business services for clients means that Bright Horizons more than most employers has a deep understanding of the practical things that can worry and distract employees, such as being concerned about family members or friends that they are looking after.
Bright Horizons, therefore, shares my passion to persuade many more employers to help their employees who are juggling jobs and caring for a loved one, which is why I was delighted to be invited to be a guest blogger. 1:9 British workers currently combine working and caring. As our population ages and state-provided social care diminishes, that 1:9 ratio is only going one way.
My interest in encouraging many more employers to become good and even great employers for their working carers stems from my own personal experience of looking after my mum in her final years, whilst holding down a full-time and demanding job. In my case, I was fortunate enough to be able to organise live-in care workers to help me look after mum at the end of her life.
I am also privileged to be the chairman of the national charity Carers UK (www.CarersUK.org) which, amongst many other things, runs Employers for Carers (in which Bright Horizons is a very active member as part of the EFC Leadership Group): http://www.employersforcarers.org/.Being chairman of Carers UK gives me a public platform to help to reach many more employers.
This year, with the help of colleagues in EFC and Carers UK I have written a book; TAKE CARE: How to be a Great Employer for Working Carers. It is published by Emerald Publishing and all royalties go direct to Carers UK.
I had started to research and write the book before my mum died. I had promised her that I was going to dedicate it to her, so it is dedicated to her memory. She was a primary school teacher for forty years and at various stages in her life she was principal carer: for one of her nieces; for me when I nearly died from a childhood bone disease; for her parents at the end of their lives; for her best friend at the end of her life; and then for my father as he declined.
So like so many working families, I have lived all my life with the example of dedicated caring. I also believe deeply that caring is part of what it is to be human. Research by Carers UK and also by many others also shows, however, that as well as being deeply rewarding, caring can also take a heavy toll on the physical and mental health carers, on their sense of social isolation and on their finances. Helping working carers to stay in work, wherever practical – even if, as in my case, it involves going part-time – is generally good for the carer as well as for the employer.
Conversations with employers around the world - large and small; public sector, Third Sector and businesses – have showed me a number of practical things that good employers can do. They can identify their employee carers, offer flexible and home-working options, carer-leave, support internal networks of employee carers, provide access to advice and information, and continuously learn and improve, through exchanges with other employers (eg through Employers for Carers) as well as via regular feedback from employees. The very best employers help ex-carers to return to work; explore how technology can make life easier for working carers – especially those caring at a distance; and use their influence to help shape public policies and programmes to value, respect and support carers.
We are pretty unique in the UK in having an established network of organisations dedicated helping employers and employees, such as Employers for Carers (EFC) and Bright Horizons.
Employers for Carers, Carers UK and Bright Horizons can offer a rich set of resources and strategies designed to positively impact the lives of working families. Some of you who are multinational organisations may also be interested in helping Carers UK sister organisations in other countries to assess the feasibility of setting up something akin to Employers for Carers in the countries you operate in.
If you are a national or multinational organisation looking for ways to support your employees, attract and retain talented people and help carers in your workforce there has never been a better time to get in touch.
David Grayson is Emeritus professor of Corporate Responsibility at Cranfield University School of Management. He is chairman of Carers UK.
His book: “Take Care: How to be a great employer for working carers” was published by Emerald Publishing in July, with all royalties going directly to Carers UK.
He writes here in a personal capacity.