1 in 8 employees in New Zealand are also carers

Businesses are being encouraged to become more supportive of employees who balance work with caring for a family member. Carers NZ says it could help boost productivity, morale, and engagement.

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 like they have no choice but to leave or change jobs.

Many of these employees are at the peak of their career, as the the majority of family carers are aged between 35 and 65. So, the impact when they leave a business can be significant.

One of New Zealand’s largest health and care companies, Bupa, will be the first to receive a Carers New Zealand CareWise accreditation when the scheme launches in 2018.

It makes business sense for employers to be supportive of their employees who have caring responsibilities, plus, it's the right thing to do.

The issue was a common theme at the 7th International Carers Conference in Adelaide this month, attended by more than 500 people from around the world. Bupa was a gold sponsor at the conference.

The CareWise program will recognise organisations that take significant steps and demonstrate commitment to supporting employees who have caring responsibilities.

Founder and Chief Executive of Carers NZ Laurie Hilsgen says that caregiving is a high priority of the working population and is something employers should take seriously.

In our ageing society, smart employers are thinking strategically about these issues.
Laurie Hilsgen, Chief Executive of Carers NZ

"They're open to tying new initiatives that engage staff and encourage productivity, by relieving some of the pressures employees with caring responsibilities may experience. This includes employees who care for people who are ill, elderly, or disabled,” she says.

“Bupa has demonstrated it's commitment to creating an inclusive work environment. There appears to be no hesitation from employees who were 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,” Mrs 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. This included flexible work practices and 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.

Bupa will be first organisation to receive the award when CareWise launches in 2018.

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