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Combining informal care and work: supporting carers in the workplace

The UK Government is concerned that women and men who care for disabled or sick relatives, or elderly people, and who also wish to take part in paid work should have increased opportunities to do so. However, many informal carers find combining work and care difficult; some may ‘choose’ to give up paid employment completely. The present paper draws on the findings from two projects to explore the extent to which the needs of employees with caring responsibilities are supported in the workplace. The two projects examined evidence from a study of informal carers assessed under the 1995 Carers Act, identified the difficulties which they face in their workplace and observed the strategies which they developed to help sustain the two roles. From this, a model of support for working carers was developed which includes leave policies, carer-friendly working arrangements, access to a (private) telephone, and supportive line managers and co-workers. This support model was tested on the employment policies of 13 employers to see how ‘carer-friendly’ they were. Most of the organisations studied were able to provide appropriate support for carers identified in the model. Questions were then raised about different aspects of carer-friendly working arrangements, including whether carers should receive any special treatment that is not available to their colleagues, the role of line managers, and the relationship between seniority and opportunities to combine work and care.

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Health & Social Care in the Community

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