The best way to support your employees with family commitments

As I’m sure you know, SMEs are critical to UK employment, accounting for 60% of private sector jobs. But according to research, almost a quarter of employees would consider leaving their jobs because of a single area of their lives in which they feel unsupported by their employers. That area? The provision of support and flexibility over family care commitments. If this concern isn't addressed, the UK economy could, in theory, have a crisis on its hands.

Why you should support employees' family lives

Clearly, it pays to support employees with caring responsibilities. Retention rates are a key consideration when it comes to what support you can provide your employees. Productivity can also be affected. 64% of employees suffer from stress caused by juggling work and family care. If these stress levels can be reduced, employee performance will see a corresponding improvement. Happier and less-stressed employees will naturally have more positive attitudes to deal with management, customers, and colleagues.

It’s not just about keeping employees either - give them the right provisions, and you’ll actually get more days of work from them too! On average in the UK, employees take 5.3 days off a year for family care commitments (excluding parental leave) - this is higher than the average sick leave taken annually! These days equate to £618 in lost time per employee, so by putting better systems in place to support parents and carers, businesses stand to profit.

Support for family care is not just parents

Family care is a broad term, and the commitments of people in this category are wide-ranging. Some may be supporting sick or elderly relatives, while others might be working parents. This latter case is only becoming more prevalent, with a higher percentage of fathers being employed than men without dependent children for as long as this trend has been recorded. Mothers these days are also more likely to be employed than women without dependents, and this has been the case since 2010.

Whatever their specific commitments, employees with family care duties tend to benefit from the same things, which we’ll discuss below. Implementing these measures in your small business will ensure that your employees feel valued and looked after, as well as lowering their stress levels and improving retention.

Create a culture centred on employee welfare

A key tenet of any successful workplace, implementing a positive culture that looks after employees is rarely more relevant than when it comes to supporting their lives away from work. This is a message that needs to come from the top, and isn’t necessarily a change you can make overnight, but you can take regular steps towards building a more supportive culture.

Encourage employees to share concerns and give them the freedom to be honest about the struggles they’re having with care commitments. Even just letting them know that you’d rather they missed a shift for caring duties than pretend to be ill will alleviate some of the stress they’re feeling about balancing their work and home lives.

Take the time to understand your employees’ circumstances

The better you know your employees, the better placed you will be to help them. Of course, there are professional boundaries to be maintained, but don’t be afraid to learn more about them and their families. Doing so will make it easier for them to open up when they are struggling as one such conversation will be much less awkward if you don’t need to interject with, “I didn’t even know you had kids!”

Provide flexible working hours and conditions where possible

Finding solutions that allow your employees to handle their care commitments while fulfilling their duties at work will give both parties what they’re after. While the nature of your business will dictate just how flexible you can be, it’s worthwhile exploring what you could do to make things easier. For instance, if employees could in theory swap shifts when needed, but doing so is a hassle because of the difficulty involved in adjusting rotas and notifying people of the changes, an automated scheduling solution could help.

Findmyshift is an example of a smart scheduling tool that allows shifts to be quickly and easily swapped and all involved parties notified, so that you can give your employees greater flexibility. In return, they’ll be better positioned to handle their care commitments and deliver when they’re at work—a true win-win for them and your business.

About the author

Jake Waller is a wordsmith who plies his trade here at Findmyshift. He uses his background in engineering to simplify complex topics for a variety of tech firms. When not writing for Findmyshift he blogs under a pseudonym at My Name is Skylance and has a passion for creative writing and editing, about which he's always talking on Twitter.