Flexibility key in supporting employees with caregiving responsibilities

While some workplaces may find it difficult to accommodate flexibility for employees with caregiving responsibilities, employers should be creative, according to one human resources consultant.

“To me, I feel like it’s not that difficult to do,” Helen Patterson, a consultant at Life Works Well, told an audience at the Human Resources Professionals Association conference in Toronto on Friday. “Flexibility is not that difficult if there’s a willingness behind it. I think that’s where we’re going to see governments going. They’re even looking at legislating flexibility,” she added.

Read: Employers and employees disagree on right to request flexible working

During the session, Patterson shared her own experience of working flexibly while caring for an ailing parent. “For me, the No. 1 thing that helped me get through this was having flexibility,” she said.

The payoff for employers is readily available, as an employee will repay that flexibility with loyalty, she added.

Being proactive is also important since time off to take on a caregiving role often happens unexpectedly, said Patterson. Managers should know what’s available from a human resources perspective and be able to pass that awareness onto employees.

“It’s like harassment training. What are we going to do? Wait until it’s legislated to say you have to do harassment training to know respect in the workplace is important? It’s always after the fact that you’re dealing with those reactive situations in the workplace,” she said.

Read: How does Hawaii caregiver program compare to Canada’s EI benefit?

Being flexible, proactive and supportive will also have a direct correlation to attracting and retaining talent, noted Patterson.

“I really think this is a community — we have the government, we have employers and we have employees; we all have a responsibility to try to work together to deal with these issues. I think the employers that deal with this well are the ones that are going to attract the talent. I would rather go to an organization that I know is going to support me long term.”