Supporting employees with disabled children
Almost 1 in 10 children in the UK have a disability. However, parents are often not given the support they need at work. A report by Working Families, the work-life balance charity, found that 4 out of 10 parents of disabled children are working at a lower skill level than before they had their child and three quarters have avoided promotion or have accepted a demotion because of their caring responsibilities.
The study also found that more than 93% of parents who are not currently in paid employment do want to work. However, employers often lack the understanding to make this possible or an appropriate role with flexible working options just isn’t available.
The requirement to attend school or medical appointments, sometimes at short notice can be a challenge for an employer and a barrier for parents who wish to return to work after their child is born.
This has contributed to the fact that 45% of working parents are now in a job that is below the skill level of the job they held before they became a parent.
What can employers do?
Flexibility is a key factor in helping to support employees with disabled children. This may mean you need to consider different working hours for the role such as less than five days a week, or only working during school term time. Many parents have problems finding appropriate childcare that can meet their child’s needs before and after the school day and during school holidays, so more flexible working hours could help relieve this situation.
Formalising processes and working arrangements is critical to ensuring consistency across your teams. Informal local arrangements can hinder flexibility and allow room for individuals prejudices to influence their decision making. Access to annual, carers or parental leave and flexible working should be a matter of policy rather than discretion.
Policies that support flexible working also need to be well communicated and easy to understand. The possibility to work flexibly needs to be clear in job advertisements so that parents with caring responsibilities can find positions that suit their circumstances easily.
Clearly, greater understanding and flexibility from employers is just one part of the change required to assist the working parents of disabled children.
The government has recently committed to ensuring benefits like Carer’s Allowance support employment. The government has also committed to introduce a new Carer’s Leave during this parliament.
Working Families believe that employers who support their staff to balance working and caring will have more engaged, productive and loyal employees.
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