Posted by Naomi Finch at 29/08/2012 09:24:41
As a carer, the support I get is invaluable - I have a very supportive family, circle of friends and contacts through various groups I am involved with. While that’s all well and good, I also have a job to go to, so that I can pay the bills!
I work full time for a large company which, over the last 10 years has been fantastic supporting me when I needed to have time off to attend hospital appointments etc. They allow me to swap my shifts around, they let me work time back, work from home, compress my hours into a shorter working week, have given me short notice holiday and they have given me emergency family leave so I didn’t use up all of my holidays.
I do my bit too though, which I think is vital and the reason my manager is so supportive. I re-arrange appointments when I can, I give as much notice as possible if I need time off and I always keep my manager fully informed, oh, and I work really hard! I often put more pressure on myself than they do to be honest.
The company has a carers and family leave policy in place which has guidelines to work to for both staff and management. Knowing that I have a caring employer is a weight off my mind and I have managed to maintain a reasonable work-life balance.
Sadly, I think I am probably in the minority. Many companies, particularly smaller ones, do not offer the kind of formal support that has kept me sane, and in a job over the years. If you are unsure if your company has a policy in place I would speak to your Human Resource contact or department.
There doesn’t have to be a specific policy in place for you to get support from your employer though, as a carer you have a legal right to request a flexible working pattern as long as you meet certain criteria. We also have the right to ask for reasonable amount of time off to deal with an emergency that affects a dependant. There are many different websites to browse, carersuk.org has been a very useful website for me, they also have a specific guide all about carers and employment. And you can find useful telephone numbers in the front of the Yellow Pages or your Thomson Local directory.
It’s not just your employer that can give you support in the workplace, I was surprised how many of my colleagues are facing similar challenges to me.
A few years ago, a colleague of mine who was caring for a relative suggested we set up a carers' support network. He sent out a memo asking if any carers within the company would be interested in getting involved. The aim was simply to support one another and raise awareness of the different illnesses and difficulties we were caring for. The response was overwhelming, it was astonishing just how many people were caring for their relatives, parents, siblings, children and grandparents. Just knowing there were others we could talk to that had similar challenges, made all the difference to us all. Firm bonds and friendships have been formed from our network and I know at work I can always find an ear if I feel like I need to talk.
You can also read my previous post on ‘me and my grandad.'