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Employees can be considered a carer if they provide unpaid care or assistance to a child, relative, close friend, or partner who needs help because of physical, mental, or cognitive conditions. This role is most often informal and unpaid, and done by carers who provide assistance to individuals living with a physical or mental disability, long-term health condition(s), or problems related to aging, while engaging in other paid employment. It may also apply in situations where an individual is recovering from illness or injury and requires temporary care.
Other terms used for this role is care givers, worker-carer, working-carer, caregiver-employee, carer-worker, or carer-employee. While the workplace can decide which situations will apply to their policy and program, carer is generally not a term that applies to usual childcare activities unless the child requires additional assistance..
Lack of workplace support can result in the carer leaving the workforce, missing work days, taking early retirement, and experiencing reduced productivity. Other areas that may be affected include the worker’s overall burdens, stresses, their mental and physical health, and work satisfaction.
Yes, it may.
Consider a common scenario: an employee’s parent is able to live alone but needs assistance with activities that involve driving – such as shopping, errands, and medical appointments. After working a full shift for their “paid” employer, many employees will take hours each day to provide even moderate levels of care. They may also need to take time away from their employment to attend medical appointments, creating concern about their work performance and job security. This extended workday does not only impact their work/life balance, but adds to fatigue, stress, anxiety, and may result in the individual being distracted and less able to perform their job safely.
Another common scenario may be a person with a disability requires assistance when moving from a sitting to standing position, when stepping into a bathtub, or to stand if they have fallen. The employee who is the carer may help lift or hold the care recipient. Little formal training may be available about proper lifting techniques. The potential for harm to the carer is strains, sprains, or back injury. The impact on the workplace may be lost time, reduced hours, or use of benefits.
Working carers may also be concerned about exposures at the workplace, such as a virus, and the impact that passing the illness to the person they are caring for may have.
Providing a safe, healthy, and carer-friendly workplace has benefits for all. Employers are encouraged to emphasize the importance of balance between work and home, and to promote a carer-friendly workplace culture. You may wish to incorporate the program into an existing occupational health and safety management system (OHSMS) framework. For example, the Canadian Standards Association’s (CSA) Standard B701-17 Carer- Inclusive and Accommodating Organizations. B701-17 incorporates a “Plan-Do-Check-Act” cycle – the same model used in CSA Z45001:19 – Occupational health and safety management systems – Requirements with guidance for use. The purpose of an occupational health and safety management system is to manage hazards and risks, provide a mechanism to prevent injuries and illness, and use methods to systematically monitor and evaluate the program.
When developing a policy and program to cover supports to worker-carers, be sure to:
Monitor and assess programs and activities with regard to any opportunities, challenges, and benefits as noted by the carer-employee, their manager or supervisor, and co-employees. Review and report the results. Take actions to continually improve the program performance to achieve the intended outcomes.
A comprehensive program will incorporate as many options as possible. Examples include: