Balancing work and whānau: a manager’s guide

It’s about more than Mum and Dad 

When we think about balancing work and caring for family, we often think of parents juggling children and jobs. But caring for whānau can be so much more diverse than this.

By 2051, there are projected to be at least 60 percent more elderly than children. With New Zealanders living longer than ever, more and more employees are caring for parents and older relatives. Other carers look after ill, frail or disabled family members or friends.

Caring disproportionately affects women, their income and their careers; two thirds of New Zealand’s carers are women. It is estimated that there is a caregiver income penalty of around 10% of the typical non-carer household income.


The business benefits of supporting carers

Employers need to support working carers. Far from compromising business objectives, research shows that using a flexible working approach achieves impressive business results.

The flexible supportive approach:

  • attracts and retains staff
  • reduces stress
  • reduces recruitment and training costs
  • increases resilience and productivity
  • reduces sick leave and absenteeism
  • improves service delivery
  • produces cost savings
  • improves people management
  • increases staff morale.

Carers also develop many skills by caring that are of great benefit to employers; for example, negotiation, time management, multi-tasking, liaison with professionals and advocacy. Therefore, keeping carers in the workplace ensures your skills are used to the benefit of all.

Organisations that have introduced flexible working and special leave arrangements for carers have judged them a success. Their message is: it makes business sense to care for carers.


How can managers support employees caring for whānau? 

Flexible working hours: it might help if you could start later and work later if you need extra time in the morning to help the person you care for get up and settled for the day, or you may need to wait for day care transport, for example.

Car parking space at/near work: this could shorten your journey time to and from work and might also help if you need to go home at lunch time to attend to the person you care for.

Working from home: either regularly or occasionally, can be a real help. You can be at home with the person you are looking after and still be able to get a day’s work done.

Unpaid and paid leave: you could use this, rather than your holiday leave, if you need to take a longer period of time off if the person you care for comes out of hospital or if they are unwell.

Career breaks: if you are thinking about giving up work, do check your options before handing in your notice. A career break could mean that you have a job to come back to after spending some time on your caring role.

Source: Balancing work and care, Skills for Care