Making the most of an Employment Carer Passport scheme relies on simplicity – so employees and their managers know exactly how it works and what the parameters are.
It relies on sensitivity, leaving it ultimately down to the carer themselves to determine how much personal information they wish to share beyond the absolute essentials.
And it certainly relies on consistency, both in terms of application right across an organisation and in fitting into a wider supportive culture. This is where HR involvement can really help.
- The Carer Passport should be user-friendly and simple in content, minimising the number of personal questions asked.
- The Passport should be a ‘living document’ which can be reviewed both periodically and in response to a change in the nature or impact of caring responsibilities.
- The Passport also ‘stays with’ the employee so that, even if they move departments or their role changes, it remains in place.
- The Passport prompts a conversation which the employee may find challenging and upsetting, but which has the expressed intention of providing understanding and support. Its contents are confidential and treated accordingly.
- It is helpful to develop a Carer Passport scheme with the support of a staff carers group or similar body.
- Evidence about use of Carer Passports is taken into account in benchmarking schemes like the Employers for Carers' Carer Confident scheme, or the Carer Positive scheme in Scotland, recognising employers who are building a supportive workplace for all staff.
Challenges to overcome
- Keeping the Carer Passport as an informal document can weaken its potential. Make its parameters clear at the outset, allaying concerns over how a Carer Passport relates to employee contracts and flexible working requests.
- Where workplaces have established a wider culture which is relatively inflexible, a Carer Passport scheme alone cannot provide a ‘fix all’ – it will be need to be supported by other action to develop a more flexible culture.
- Many carers would still see ‘carer’ as an unhelpful label, especially to those who do not understand what being a carer involves - so the operation of the Carer Passport scheme needs to enable employees to choose whether and how they present their caring role to colleagues.
Promoting the scheme
- To have visibility and be known as an option across the workplace, it requires strong internal promotion.
- The Carer Passport should be championed personally by senior management and, in larger organisations, by departmental heads, the HR department, and the Staff Carers Group if there is one.
- Where there are senior staff or Trustees who are carers, and who are willing to identify themselves as such, this can make a huge difference for other employees who fear the stigma of being seen as a carer.
- Making Carer Passport discussions part of induction and transition checklists leads to normalisation and these working practices becoming embedded across all departments.