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Annie Hayes

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Feature: Flexible working in the caring industry

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Obtaining a work-life balance for professionals in the caring industry can be a difficult task to achieve; in this feature HRZone looks at the family-friendly approaches adopted by a health insurer to help its employees manage their home and work responsibilities more effectively.

Imagine an advertisement that runs like this:

Help wanted:

Hours of work: Between 2-24 x 7 days a week
Rates of pay: maybe some benefits if you’re lucky

Holidays/overtime not applicable.
Supply own protective clothing.

• Applicant must be strong as some lifting is involved; good at laundering, housekeeping and be caring, attentive and patient at all times.
• Able to administer drugs and undertake other minor nursing duties i.e. bed baths, bed pans etc.
• Personal dental or hospital appointments to be arranged with your own volunteer.

It doesn’t sound a very attractive job does it! Some people do a job like this and try to keep up a full or part time paid job!

There are 6 million carers in the UK, 1.6 million of whom work as well. Many others have to give up an income, future employment prospects and pension rights to become a carer.

Tony Blair recently announced that carers should have the same right as working parents to request flexible working. The news was given a cool reception by business leaders and while the government is working out the details of the policy The Princess Royal Trust for Carers and HSA are showing companies that it doesn’t have to be a problem and that there are advantages to supporting carers at work.

When the government announced that parents had the right to request flexible working HSA, healthcare insurers rolled it out to all their employees. HSA has over 220 flexible working patterns and actively supports carers, which is demonstrated by the fact that 29 of their employees are carers, this equates to the national statistic of one in ten of the population performing a caring role. Other HSA policies that help carers include:

Flexibility: offering a flexible holiday arrangement gives employees the option to buy or sell five days leave. Some staff may claim flexitime days off in addition to their holiday entitlement.

Dependant leave: employees have the right to a reasonable amount of unpaid time off to deal with unexpected or sudden emergencies or to make any necessary longer term arrangements involving someone who is dependent on the employee.

A helping hand: access to a free service for HSA employees, called Family Life Solutions is specifically intended to assist those with elderly or disabled adults or children. Qualified and trained staff at the end of a phone will track down details of residential, nursing and respite care, nurseries, registered child-minders and playgroups to suit specific requirements.

Reflecting on the benefits that schemes like these bring, Josie Cashmore, who cares for her son says: “HSA have always been very supportive and they have even allowed me to change my hours so that I can be at home when my son returns from school. If I’m not there he can go wandering.

“When I need time off at short notice it is never a problem – I take it as leave – but they always support me.”

Des Benjamin of HSA, explains the benefits:
“By offering a vast number of flexible working arrangements we enable employees to meet the demands of their caring responsibilities whilst successfully delivering to HSA as their employer. We support carers at a corporate level with the work we do with The Princess Royal Trust for Carers and we support the carers we have here at HSA”.


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Annie Hayes

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