Case Study: Care-related Supports – Dublin City Council, Ireland
Company / organisation name
Dublin City Council
Balancing Work and Care
About the company / organisation
Dublin City Council (DCC) is a local authority covering the central regions of Dublin city. It employs 6,500 staff and provides a full range of municipal services.
DCC considers itself to be an employee-friendly organisation. It provides a range of flexible working patterns to enable staff to have a good work–life balance.
As an Irish employer, the organisation provides the range of statutory work–family entitlements. Those for parents relate to maternity leave, parental leave and adoptive leave. Other relevant rights relate to carer’s leave and ‘force majeure’ leave (for those who must take time off for unforeseen reasons).
In addition to the above, DCC provides the following (non-statutory) entitlements:
- flexi-time (where available);
- study leave;
- compassionate leave.
Formal application processes are in place for many of the non-statutory work–life balance schemes. These are granted subject to the approval of local management and the HR department. This approach allows a quality customer service to be maintained while endeavouring to facilitate the requests of staff to avail of these schemes.
In January 2009, DCC’s HR department and the Carers Association, the main NGO for Irish carers, conducted an online survey of working carers within the organisation. Its aim was to review issues arising for working carers within DCC, in terms of reconciling the demands of paid employment with those of being a carer. It defined a working carer as an employee who cares for a relative or friend who is vulnerable as a result of age, illness or disability.
The survey provided data on:
- the number of working carers;
- the extent of their responsibilities;
- a profile of the cared-for person/s;
- personal health of carers;
- levels of support available to carers – financial, human and work-related;
- current and anticipated impact on work.
Following the survey, the HR department facilitated the Carers Association in providing an information stand for employees in corporate headquarters, during National Carers Week. Following this, a series of on-site lunch time information and advice sessions were offered to employees, at which they could pursue personal queries with representatives from the Carers Association.
Rationale and background of the initiative
DCC is publicly committed to democratic leadership at all levels of organisational activity. The creation of an equitable and supportive working environment is a stated objective of its HR department.
DCC meets its statutory obligations in terms of equal treatment of employees. In addition, it has a range of company-led policies and practices in place, which deliver additional supports and opportunities to employees. These include flexi-time, a shorter working year scheme, work-sharing, career breaks, force majeure leave and special leave without pay.
Since 1990, DCC has employed full-time, professionally qualified counsellors to provide a confidential counselling service. This is accessible to employees during working hours. In addition, an on-site crèche is provided at corporate headquarters.
The HR department has developed a ‘Corporate Health and Well-being Strategy’, designed to create a work environment that impacts positively on individual and organisational health behaviours. This complements the work of an extensively developed health and safety function throughout the organisation.
Within this context, DCC agreed to develop and implement the ‘Balancing Work and Care Survey’. As an employer, they were conscious of the demands being placed on employees who combine the demands of work with caring responsibilities. The survey provided the organisation with an opportunity to directly engage with this group. In doing so, it enabled DCC to understand better the concerns of working carers, to gauge the effectiveness of supports in place and to anticipate future demands.
Results and assessment
The survey report was publicly launched by the mayor of Dublin city during National Carers Week. It was the first survey to be conducted on working carers in Ireland.
The survey outcomes provided the HR department with a valuable insight into the extent of the responsibilities and demands placed on the company’s working carers. Furthermore it highlighted the manner in which this group of employees were using available workplace policies and procedures to support their caring duties.
Two of the more illuminating results of the survey were that:
- 56% of respondents were not aware of the (community) supports and services available to assist them in their caring role;
- 78% of respondents would like to avail of an information session on services and supports.
In a direct response to these findings, the HR department facilitated the Carers Association in providing a general information stand for employees in corporate headquarters, during National Carers Week. This led to a series of on-site lunch time information and advice sessions being offered to employees, at which they could pursue personal queries with representatives from the Carers Association.
Feedback received by the organisation indicated that the information sessions were well–received.
Issues, challenges and lessons learned
From DCC's point of view, a number of valuable insights were gained from this survey. Firstly, the survey showed that working carers are a largely hidden group. It was found that
- 60% do not declare their caring status on the national census and only 3% have availed of carer’s leave. Moreover, 100% of working carers were found to have used holiday leave to provide care, and 50% have used more than half of their total holiday leave entitlement in order to provide care.
Secondly, it was found that working carers would benefit from more support. A total of 78% said they would like more information on available services and supports and 57% would like to participate in a carer support group.
In the longer term, DCC recognises that demographic and social changes will create greater challenges for informal carers. For this reason, it will continue in its efforts to facilitate the optimum reconciliation between the demands of work and caring responsibilities.
The joint DCC and Carers Association initiatives outlined above were designed as an immediate response to the insights of the ‘Balancing Work and Care’ survey. Following its success, DCC has now committed to utilising all internal communication media to promote National Carers Week on an annual basis.
The Carers Association wish to continue supporting this type of initiative. This could involve working with both private companies and with employer bodies, in order to progress the issue on a wider level. Sources
Case study authors:
- Kevin Cullen, WRC;
- Sarah Delaney, WRC;
- Ciaran Dolphin, WRC.