Idris cares…he cares for his mum. She’s been really unwell over the last 12 months. She’s got cancer and is currently receiving treatment for it. Idris also has a younger brother, Kofi. Their mum normally takes Kofi to school but the treatment she’s receiving is making her feel so unwell that she can’t get out of bed in the morning. She’s also been told to stay away from places where there are lots of germs, as she won’t be able to fight any infections. With kids always being ill from one bug or another, she’s not able to take Kofi to school.
Pippa is Idris’ manager. She’s noticed some changes in him recently. He’s been late for work quite a few times and gives her the excuse that he missed his bus and promises to make his time back. If it was just a bit of lateness now and then she could probably live with it. But there’s been other things that are sticking in her mind. He’s been a bit snappy with his colleague Bobby. Bobby tends to ask a lot of questions and Idris is normally so patient with him. There’s been a few occasions where Idris has said he’s not feeling well and has rushed home. He’s also seemed to be thinking about other things instead of his work – Pippa has noticed lots of minor errors that are really out of character for Idris.
Pippa has a conversation with the HR Advisor, and they ask her “have you spoken to him to see if everything is ok?”. Pippa realises that she hasn’t. She’s done the normal daily small talk of “how are you?” and “did you have a nice evening / weekend?” but knows that in a team setting no one would feel comfortable raising a personal problem. She decides to have a meeting with him to find out what’s going on.
In the meeting Pippa asks him “how are you?”. This simple question can go a long way. Initially Idris is reluctant to talk. He’s always believed that home life and work are separate and should not affect each other. However, when Pippa starts to tell him about the changes she’s noticed in him, he makes the decision to tell her what’s going on. Pippa reminds him that there’s no magical locker at the front door of the office to put your personal problems in before you start work. She explains that personal problem will affect everyone in work and that talking to her may lead to her being able to make changes that can take some of the pressure off him.
The whole situation has clearly been taking its toll on Idris. Pippa asks Idris what barriers he’s facing with the current arrangements at home. Aside from having to drop his brother off at school, he sometimes needs to pick him up, which would mean leaving work early. There’s also his mum’s hospital appointments and school holidays to think of. Plus, he has no one to talk to about this – he feels isolated and upset.
Pippa knows that the Company has an employee assistance helpline, so gives him the contact details. She tells him that he can call any time and speak to someone about what’s going on, that the conversations are confidential, and that they are totally free. The advisors on the helpline will also be able to tell him of other services that he can access to get more help or advice.
While the Company does not have an official flexi-time policy in place, Pippa suggests that they look at an adjustment in his working hours. There are a few options that she’s given him to think about:
Pippa is aware that Idris should not be treated badly just because he is associated with someone who is classed as disabled. She knows that by doing this, she would be in breach of the Equality Act, which could mean that both her and the Company end up with a hefty fine.
Going home that night, Idris felt like the weight of the world had been lifted off his shoulders. He thought that Pippa wouldn’t understand and that the Company would tell him he absolutely had to do the hours he was contracted and there was no way around it. Instead, what he found was a manager who was willing to listen, willing to look at options to help him, and a Company who is there to support him.
A little understanding can go a long way. During the time when the Company agrees to make adjustments for Idris, he doesn’t let the standard of his work slip. He’s very grateful for the help they are giving him during this really difficult time and the flexibility they’ve offered him means that his brother isn’t late for school, his mum is given as much help as she needs, and he doesn’t feel so stressed that he can’t function. When Idris’ mum is given the all clear, Idris returns to his normal working hours and arrangements and even buys Pippa a big bunch of flowers to say ‘thank you’.
Due to the fact that Idris is a carer for his mum and his brother, it means that there’s a lot of responsibility laid at his door. While businesses always want to plan for staff absences, sometimes it’s not possible. A degree of flexibility is needed with any employee in this type of situation. If they are looking after someone with a disability, they are not going to be able to control when the person they care for is unwell or needs help.
Having an open and honest discussion about their circumstances and looking for alternative arrangements that suit the employee and the business can really make a difference. Not just to the employee, but to your business as well.
If you have an employee who also has caring responsibilities and you’re struggling to think how you can make things work for both of you, why not give us a call?