One in eight employees in New Zealand are caring for someone outside of work. The difficulty and stress of juggling care and work responsibilities leaves many people feeling that they have no choice but to leave or change jobs. But a new programme, CareWise, is helping to recognise those organisations that are supportive of employees with caring responsibilities.
The loss of skilled employees, likely to be at the peak of their career – the majority of family carers are aged between 35-65 – is felt by business. So as well as being the right thing to do, it makes business sense for employers to be supportive of their employees who have caring responsibilities.
The issue is a common theme at this week’s International Carers Conference in Adelaide, attended by over 500 people from around the world.
Founder and Chief Executive of Carers New Zealand Laurie Hilsgen says that caregiving is a high priority of the working population and a growing implication for employers.
“In our ageing society, smart employers are thinking strategically about these issues. They are open to initiatives that make it easier to engage staff and encourage productivity by alleviating some of the pressures employees with caring responsibilities for ill, elderly, or disabled family members may experience,” she says.
The Carers New Zealand CareWise program will recognise organisations that take significant steps and demonstrate commitment to supporting employees with caring responsibilities. Bupa was the pilot organisation for the CareWise accreditation program and will be first organisation to achieve accreditation when CareWise launches nationwide in 2018.
“Bupa has demonstrated their strategic commitment to creating an inclusive work environment. There appears to be no hesitation from employees interviewed with regards to sharing their personal caring requirements with their managers and having the confidence to request a flexible work arrangement if and when required,” Hilsgen says.
To achieve the accreditation, organisations must meet at least three out of four CareWise criteria, including collecting information on how many employees have family caring commitments, having a flexible work policy, providing helpful carer information, and demonstrating any other initiatives to assist employees.
Bupa’s approach helped them achieve the award. These include: flexible work practices, making carer information and resources available as part of their employee wellbeing programme called Smile.
Bupa’s People Director Julia Wiegandt-Goude says Bupa’s focus is on providing support and flexibility wherever possible for employees.
“We are working to build a strong and supportive culture which inherently supports the diverse and changing needs of our workforce. We’ve worked with Carers NZ for a long time and were delighted to be invited to be the pilot organisation for the CareWise accreditation” she says.
Many employees with caring responsibilities are helping to look after someone living with dementia. Mrs Wiegandt-Goude says with an ageing population and rising rates of dementia this is only going to increase. Bupa wants to create a carer-friendly and dementia-friendly community for residents and employees, enabling them to feel supported in their care for their own families.