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Carers in the workplace. It’s more common than you think.

January 10th, 2018

Categories: News


Written by Madeleine Buchner, Founder and CEO of Little Dreamers Australia

Let’s talk about the elephant in the room (or office) – have you ever had a colleague who is fantastic and then suddenly they start dropping the ball on things? Maybe it starts with little things like forgetting to send off a document on time or pay an invoice by its due date. Then it moves to running late, missing meetings and sometimes it may seem to an outsider that they either don’t care, they’ve bitten off more than they can chew or something else is going on. As a great workmate you think that you should pull this person aside and check if they’re ok. They reassure you that they’re fine, not really wanting to talk about why they’re not their usual self.In 2015 I was working in my first proper job. Full time. It was both intense and so exciting at the same time. It was late one Tuesday night and my brother had gotten himself into this whole state. He was confused and messages weren’t getting through his brain fast enough. When this happens often he ends up arguing basically with himself. He will start by saying one thing, we will agree with him or offer a counter argument and then he will argue the opposite way. Often when he is like this there is no getting through to him but usually after a while it will die down. This night was not like the others. I came out of my room to screaming like I had never heard before. My brother had put his hand through a thick glass pane in a window in a door of our house in frustration and ripped his hand open. Blood was everywhere. I have two rules – I don’t do blood and I don’t do vomit. So I helped Mum put her shoes on while she held a towel around my brothers hand and Dad drove us to emergency at Monash Clayton. By this time it was 11pm, the pain had set into my brothers hand and everything was a mess. He went straight through to see a doctor and then was moved to a room in emergency so they could try and get the glass out of his hand. By the time it was 3am I had, had enough of the hospital smell and of my brother vomiting because of the pain he was in (gross) so I called my Grandparents to come and pick me up. Poor Nana and Papa getting woken up to a phone call at 3.30am. They drove me home, I cleaned up the house and by the time I got into bed at nearly 5am Mum woke me up to tell me my brother was having surgery on his hand the next day.

After 1 hour of very broken sleep, I texted my boss to tell her I had a family emergency but everything was ok and I would just be in a bit late. I felt like I still had to go into work because (apart from having no sleep) I was fine and there was really nothing I could do by sitting around at home all day. I walked into the office at 10.30am, a bit dishevelled and sat down in a meeting in the office. The team asked me if everything was ok and I assured them it was. Throughout the day I was off my game and I ended up being sent home early because I looked awful and I wasn’t really getting anything done.Being a carer in a workplace is hard. You feel like there are so many expectations, especially when you’re young and in your first big person job. What would happen to our employees and our workplaces if we were to make them carer friendly? When people are welcomed into a new company they are also told of how much support there is for people who have caring responsibilities, told of how the business has flexible working arrangements for people who are a carer and informed about business support for people who have to transition out of work into a caring role and then back.

Are you sitting there reading this and thinking that you don’t have any carers in your workforce? Wondering how common this really is? Get ready to be blown away because I’m about to throw a lot of numbers at you.

In Australia there are 2.7 million carers (12% of the total population) 770,000 people are primary carers (they are the main carer in their family) and 53.6% of primary carers 15-64 years old are employed . Majority of primary carers (91.3%) have never had to take long periods away from work to care (more than 3 months) with many combining work and care and once 27% of primary carers reducing their working hours after taking on their caring role . 3-4% of Australia’s workforce become carers each year due to a number of factors including a partner falling ill, accident or an ageing parent and for those who do have to exit the workforce 20% of primary carers say that the main barrier to re-entering is difficult arranging the right working hours .

1 in 8 people in the workforce are carers.

Wondering what carers are looking for then?

  • 42.1% are looking for paid carers leave
  • 24.3% want access to flexible working hours
  • 13% want the option to work from home

While many workplaces say that these support services are available if staff ask for them it’s all about promoting them and ensuring that the workforce knows they exist without asking for them. Many carers, including myself in my first adult job, didn’t want my boss to know that I had a caring role. I didn’t think it was their business and I wanted to prove (to myself more than anything) that my caring role wasn’t going to effect my career. Much to my disappointment at the time, it did effect me at times but maybe if I had had the courage to talk to my boss about it at the beginning, or if I knew from the start that my workplace was a carer friendly workplace then I would have felt more comfortable taking that day off to be with my family. Maybe the colleague dropping the ball would have felt more comfortable telling you that a family member has become unwell and that they are balancing a lot at the moment.

So where to from here? Now that you have this information that so many people in our community and our companies are carers what do you do with it? Little Dreamers Australia has recently launched The Carers Accreditation Program. Little Dreamers Workplace Accreditation Program is a flexible training and awareness program that will allow your business to fully unlock the potential of your staff. We work closely with you to develop policies, run workshops, implement strategies, and provide you and your staff with the information you need to maintain a healthy and positive workplace. Supporting carers isn’t just about opening up your business to a wider range of amazing candidates; it’s also about providing support for your current employees who may find themselves in a caring role at any time. The peak caring age is 45-64, which is typically the age when employees have developed a high level of job-related knowledge and experience. You don’t want to lose these employees when their priorities shift due to unforeseen circumstances. Our Accreditation Program will ensure your employees are aware of how much you appreciate their work.Want to have a discussion about how we can be supporting carers in your workplace? Send us a message and we can grab a coffee and chat.

2018 – this is the year we can revolutionise the caring industry, engaging more people in the workforce and opening up more job opportunities. Make the move towards a carer friendly workforce today.References:

Australian Bureau of Statistics 2012, Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers

Australian Bureau of Statistics 2012, Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers

Hill, T Thomson, C Bittman, M & Griffiths, M 2008, What kinds of jobs help carers combine care and employment? Australian Institute of Family Studies, Family Matters No.80

Australian Bureau of Statistics 2009, Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers

Australian Bureau of Statistics 2009, Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers

Hill, T Thomson, C Bittman, M & Griffiths, M 2008, What kinds of jobs help carers combine care and employment? Australian Institute of Family Studies, Family Matters No.80

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