We talk a lot about how best to support working parents and the advantages of retaining these workers. But with the rise in older workers (and the ages of their parents and other elderly dependents) employer support for those who have care responsibilities outside of work should be something that is discussed just as much.
This week is Dementia Awareness Week. Dementia, including Alzheimer's disease, has overtaken heart disease as the leading cause of death in England and Wales, latest figures reveal. In 2015, more than 61,000 people died of dementia - 11.6% of all recorded deaths.
Given the impact that Dementia has on those around them and the likelihood of (given current statistics) those within your organisation may encounter it at some stage in their life, here we look at what employers can do to lighten the load for all those who have adult/elderly dependents to look after:
Improve Working Practices
It’s not uncommon for new parents to be allowed to work more flexibly in order to manage their childcare requirements. But remember anyone is entitled to ask for more flexibility. And perhaps to promote fairness across the business, it’s a good idea to expand this entitlement to all workers, which would benefit those with elderly or sick dependents in particular.
Time Off For Dependents
All employees are entitled to 'time off for dependants'. This is a reasonable amount of unpaid time off to deal with unforeseen matters and emergencies involving a dependant, including leave to arrange or attend a funeral. A 'dependant' could be a spouse, partner, child, parent or anyone living in the household. It could also be someone who relies on an employee for their care or for help during an emergency, such as an elderly neighbour. Unlike, Parental Leave, where parents are entitled to 18 weeks of unpaid leave to care for children under 18, there is no such entitlement specified for those with adult dependents. So the amount of time of for dependents you offer is something you will need to cover off in your policy stack.
For when the worst happens and someone dies, many employers have a policy for compassionate leave, which spares line managers the awkward and unfamiliar task of having to assess the seriousness of the situation themselves. If you don’t currently have a compassionate leave policy, again, you may want to think about the amount of time that is reasonable for employees to take off work when someone close to them dies now. When this amount of time subsides, it’s common for compassionate leave to them become sick leave (on the grounds of supreme stress and emotional distress) for which employees will require a letter from their doctor.
Make Sure Your Position Is Communicated To Employees & Managers
No-one wants to spend hours ploughing their way through the company handbook when a loved one is seriously ill or has passed away. So do what you can to ensure everyone is aware of the entitlements you provide. Making sure your managers know the level of discretion they have over provision for time off for dependents, compassionate and sick leave can be immensely reassuring for everyone concerned and removes a lot of anxiety during these difficult times.
Keep Your Eyes Open
Bear in mind that many carers are well used to putting others first - and their own health and wellbeing last. So be on the look out for anyone under extra pressures and be mindful that you may be the one to reach out to them first.
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