Renfrewshire Council

Balancing work and caring responsibilities - Martin's story

Martin MacNiven shares his experience as a working unpaid carer and how getting the right support has made a difference

As a parent to a child with underlying health conditions, environmental health officer, Martin MacNiven balances his work and caring responsibilities every day. This brings a number of challenges, but thanks to the support he's received at work, Martin says he can manage both parts of his life without one negatively impacting the other.

 Martin explains what being an unpaid working carer at Renfrewshire Council is like for him:

"Balancing caring responsibilities with work can feel like plate-spinning and is highly stressful at times. But working in a place that recognises this and provides me with support has made a huge difference to my wellbeing and ability to cope.

"Within a couple of weeks of starting my job at the Council, I was contacted by an HR rep offering me support as an unpaid working carer. I thought there had been a mistake and that they had either misinterpreted my job role or my personal circumstances. But they explained that because I'm employed and provide care for someone at home on an unpaid basis, this classes me as an unpaid working carer.

"This was a game-changer for me and I'm very grateful that someone was able to look at my circumstances and help me get the information and support I needed. I've worked in similar local authority roles elsewhere for years and have never been identified as an unpaid working carer or had this type of support.

"Understanding my rights and knowing where to go for help and advice has helped relieve a lot of worry. One example is the five days additional leave per year that are available to me as someone on the Carers' Register. I had to use this recently when my child was admitted to hospital. At times like that, no one wants to worry about work, arrange annual leave or take sick leave. Having carers leave made it much more straightforward.

"My circumstances at home can make getting to early morning team meetings difficult. So, my manager agreed that I didn't need to always be there. That simple change doesn't have a big impact on my team or the work we do, but it does make a big difference to me.

"I've also benefitted from being part of our employee Carers Connected forum. The 'Care for a Cuppa' events are a great chance to meet other people in similar circumstances and share our stories and advice. There are certain rights that we have as carers and lots of services available that so many people don't know about. This type of networking is a great way to find out about things like that and it's so helpful to hear from other carers about how they cope and help others if I can.

To improve on our current support for carers, Martin added:

"While I think the Council does a great job supporting people like me, in the future I'd like to see an official point of contact that we can reach out to if we are having a difficult day. I do think we are already heading that way with the Carers Connected forum and our mental health first aiders.

"Recognising the impact that caring responsibilities can have on someone, whether it's on their mental, physical, or financial wellbeing is such an important first step. So, I also hope more managers will continue to inform themselves, be ready to spot team members with caring responsibilities and offer them the right support. It really is a win-win for everyone involved."

Published on Thursday 24 November 2022