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How employers can better support carers

By Jack Campbell | |5 minute read
How Employers Can Better Support Carers

Being a carer can be hard, especially if your job is being juggled between caregiver responsibilities.

Whether you’re a parent, looking after an elderly relative, or caring for someone with a disability, the responsibility can interfere with work/life balance.

Employers can do their part to lessen the stress by being conscious of the effort that goes into being a carer.


“At some time in our life, we’re all going to have a caring need, whether that’s for ourselves, whether that’s for other loved ones, or parents. And I talk about that because sometimes for organisations, this need to support people and bridge work and home life has been kind of put in a bucket, ‘Oh, that’s just for parents’,” said Emma Walsh, founder of Family Friendly Workplaces and the chief executive of Parents at Work.

“We all belong to a family, and we all need the ability to connect work and home life. So, the more that organisations can understand that this is not just a parenting thing, this is not just a mother thing or a children thing, it impacts all of us.”

This is why creating a supportive workplace is crucial. Ms Walsh said the benefits would flow throughout all corners of the business.

“If we get it right, the upside is enormous, not only for individuals around helping them with their work/life tension, and their work/life wellbeing and enriching that. The upside for employers around the ability to attract and retain great people, to improve their engagement and productivity is enormous,” she explained.

“If you can lower the work/life tension that people feel and you maximise their ability to thrive at working at home, you get an uplift in performance, you get an uplift in their happiness … To me, this transcends parents. It’s about all of us and the way that we connect our personal and professional life.”

The Australian Human Rights Commission released a toolkit to help employers provide adequate support for caregivers in the workplace.

Some of the areas where companies can support are:

  • Information and advocacy
  • Time and leave arrangements
  • Work location
  • Job redesign
  • Return-to-work arrangements and programs
  • Care-related services
  • Financial assistance

Some helpful tips outlined by the toolkit were:

  • Senior management actively supports the carer strategy
  • Create a cooperative and supportive workplace culture
  • Communicate about carers’ issues
  • Provide access to basic facilities to accommodate carers’ needs
  • Consider each request from carers fairly and consistently

According to Carer Gateway, there are 2.65 million carers in Australia. This equals about one in nine people. Employers could have plenty of workers within the business who have caregiver responsibilities and do not even know it, which is why it’s so important to have some form of policy to protect them.

Ms Walsh continued: “We need caring policies to be formalised and properly communicated. Employers need to have a stance on this.”

“We know about one-third of organisations are formally including caring needs of their employees as part of their HR agendas. So that means two-thirds are it’s not even on the radar.”

The transcript of this podcast episode, when quoted above, was slightly edited for publishing purposes. The full audio conversation with Emma Walsh on 9 May is below, and the original podcast article can be found here.

Jack Campbell

Jack Campbell

Jack is the editor at HR Leader.