Resources to help carers who are either looking for work or are currently working
NOAH is currently running an Introduction to Volunteering in Arseley, Biggleswade, Dunstable, Flitwick & Leighton Buzzard
The Working and Caring Partnership meeting covered a range of topics in relation to employment whilst caring such as the National Action Plan for carers, carers hubs and experiences of carers in the workplace. To read more, https://carersinbeds.org.uk/latest-stories/329-partnership
A significant number of carers will be working when they first start caring. Research has shown that many carers will struggle with combining work and caring. It is important that you are aware of your rights at work and have the confidence to bring up your role as a carer with your employer.
Some organisations might have Carer Policies or Contractual Rights which you might find useful. Either take a look at your company’s policy handbook or speak to a member of HR.
There a number of statutory rights which are available to everyone but could help you as a carer.
Requesting flexible working
All employees are able to “request” flexible working hours after they have worked for the same employer for at least 6 months. You can only make one flexible request a year.
However, an employer has the right to refuse the request if it will impact the business in any way. So it is important that you consider the impact of your flexible working and identify the benefits to the business.
The right to time off in emergencies
All employees are able to take time off to deal with an emergency or unforeseen event involving a dependant, either a child, partner or parent. This is unpaid unless your employer gives paid leave as part of their contractual rights.
The right to parental leave
If you have been working for an employer for a year and you have a child under 18 you are entitled to 18 weeks leave per child. Again this is unpaid unless your employer says otherwise.
Carers UK provides a downloadable leaflet covering your rights at work.
Being Heard: a self-advocacy toolkit by Carers UK gives you some ideas on being heard.
Employers for Carers encourages employers to support carers through a membership scheme.
Trying to combine both working and caring can be stressful so it is important that you understand your statutory rights at work. Carers UK has produced a guide Your Rights in Work which explains how your employer can help.
You might need to put forward a case to your employers for flexible hours, the Being Heard: A Guide to Self Advocacy might help put forward a strong argument.
If your employer is interested in learning more about how they can support carers, then you can give them the Employers for Carers which is a national organisation helping employers set up carer friendly organisations.
Volunteering to gain experience
If you have not worked before or have been out of work for a long time you might want to think about volunteering first to gain work experience. NOAH Enterprise is currently running a workshop titled “Introduction to Volunteering”. You can also find local voluntary work at the CSV and in Bedford, the Jobs Hub. Carers in Bedfordshire have a number of different roles for volunteers.
Returning to Work
If you are thinking of returning to work after a break for caring, or if you are a young adult carer looking for your first job, there are lots of resources and organisations to help.
A number of organisations run Return to Work programmes throughout Bedfordshire. The JobCentre Plus run regularly Get Back to Work programmes, speak to a Job Coach for further details. Alongside the JobCentre Plus a number of local organisations also run return to work programmes.
SSG Services has a number of courses for young people looking for work
NOAH runs a number of skills based courses to help you return to work. These are run in Bedford, Dunstable and Leighton Buzzard
Disability Resource Centres runs two programmes: In to Work for residents in Central Bedfordshire & Aylesbury and Employ-ability for residents in Bedfordshire
If you have mental health issues, you can request Employment support from NHS ELFT.
The local councils also have a number of useful resources if you are looking for work, click here. In Bedford, The Jobs Hub can help you look for work, prepare CVs and applications and sends out a weekly jobs bulletin.
If you are looking for flexible work, Timewise has partnered with the Department of Health and Social Care to create a bespoke hub/one-stop shop for people with caring responsibilities who are looking for part-time or flexible work. As well as plenty of flexible jobs, the new hub offers ideas and advice to carers on topics such as how to ask for flexibility at interviews. There is also information about employers who have positive flexible working strategies and who pride themselves on creating inclusive, diverse workplaces.
Negotiating Flexible working can prove to be tricky, but these tips from Timewise first published in the Winter 2018 Carers magazine could help. Read article here
Central Bedfordshire Council is open to flexible working and encourage carers to apply for full-time work and negotiate flexible working hours.
I gave up work in 2011, after spending six years juggling caring for my wife, Mary, with working in London as a financial controller. During Mary's frequent stays in hospital, I would regularly spend a busy day at work, commute home to Leighton Buzzard by train, drive an hour to High Wycombe hospital along winding roads and lanes, visit Mary, get home at 11pm, gulp down a meal, and then do the same the next day.
When I discovered in 2011 that Mary would not recover from Guillain Barre Symdrome, I resigned from my job so we could have whatever time Mary had left together. I spent the following four years as a full time carer. Your life changes immediately when you finish work; your network of business friends and colleagues disappear overnight. I also find that visits from family and friends also diminished and Mary being a 'people' person certainly felt this.
Mary died in 2015. Over the following months and years, I moved on, and I am very happy to say I met my lovely wife Margaret and inherited a beautiful family and grandchildren. I also wanted to get back into work; not necessarily the position I had left, but I didn't imagine it would be so difficult.
I visited a job club to revise my CV. I was told "Don't say you've been a carer, don't give any dates in which you weren't in employment." I found that a little strange but went along with it. I took my CV to a local employment agency, and they said, "Where have you been for these missing years?"
Several times I submitted my CV, either nothing would happen or I would be told, "Sorry, it is the caring gap." One agency who had been very keen to help me find work said, "The decision you made to care for your wife was admirable. I hope I would be able to make that decision if I was to face this problem. But you see it is because you took time out of work that it is difficult to find a position for you."
Trevor has now changed profession and works locally. He also volunteers for Carers in Bedfordshire as a local ambassador.
(This information was first published in the Carers magazine, back copies of the magazine are available here)
Editor's note: Trevor's story is unfortunate and the Government is working to prevent this sort of thing from happening. They have commissioned Timewise to set up a hub for carers looking to return to work or looking to for flexible work.