Supporting Colleagues with Dependants in the Workplace

Many colleagues now have a responsibility for caring for a dependant. This could be a child, but in an age of people living longer this could also be an aging parent, or relative or a family member with Cancer or another long-term health issue.

The law has made several provisions for these circumstances, including a right to request flexible working arrangements, and time off for dependants in an emergency.

There may be some employees that only ever access this infrequently for example, if a dependant is admitted to hospital unexpectedly, or has passed away, or where a child is sick and there is no one able to stay at home and look after that child. 

On those occasions the staff member may just need a short period of unpaid leave to resolve the issue of the child care, or to liaise with the hospital on the care of the dependant and arrange more adequate care at home once they are well or discharged  or in the case of a death time off to arrange the necessary requirements of such a situation.

In the case of long-term illness such as Cancer, sometimes staff may need a couple of hours off to attend a hospital appointment with the relative for treatment, or a consultation again this can be unpaid and usually accommodated quite easily.

Whilst this can be disruptive in some cases for the employer, it is often of short duration and will resolve itself quite quickly or may move to another type of leave such as sick leave or annual leave.

Where an employee may need longer term arrangements, the solution may be for them to look at a flexible working request with the employer, whereby the Employer and the Employee look at requesting reduced days of work or hours of work on a permanent basis, and agree a mutually beneficial solution.  

Many employers dread such requests and are often insistent on the staff member remaining on their current working hours. However, if you have an otherwise great member of staff who is productive, skilled and timely and takes little sick time, then this can be short sighted, ultimately resulting in the colleague leaving which can damage a company’s reputation and lead to further expense in the form of recruitment costs and further knock on expense such as:

  • “lost time” during the settling in period for the new employee where they are less productive;
  • possibly recruiting a less skilled member of staff to fill a gap;
  • further cost to the company if the newly recruited staff does not work out for them;

The opposite can be true of an Employer who utilises a more creative and flexible way of working giving benefits such as:

  • attracting and retaining staff; 
  • reducing stress for the employer and the employee;
  • reducing recruitment and training costs; 
  • increasing resilience and productivity;
  • reducing sickness absence brought about by the employee trying to juggle too many conflicting demands;
  • improving service delivery; 
  • producing cost savings;
  • improving people management;
  • increasing staff morale;

Flexible working requests and time off for Dependants are both Statutory Rights and guidance on applying due process for these can be obtained from Clover HR today via our email info@cloverhr.co.uk or by phone on 01905 824051.


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