Renfrewshire Council

Invaluable carers support is a 'weight off my mind'

Ellen Pyra shares her experience as a working carer and calls for colleagues to access the supports available.

Senior clerical officer, Ellen Pyra, has been a working carer for 24 years and in that time, has experienced many of the challenges common among working carers. Before accessing the supports available from the Council, Ellen worried about the emotional impact of caring and tiredness affecting her concentration at work. The practicalities of managing time off for appointments or dealing with last-minute problems and emergencies have also been particularly challenging.

Ellen said: "I'm fortunate that work has always been a safe and happy place for me. I love what I do, and I never want to let my colleagues down. But in the past, I worried about getting time for appointments during working hours or having to leave during a shift in an emergency. This became especially problematic when I started a term-time contract as I no longer had the option to use annual leave."

When our Carers Leave policy was first introduced, Ellen welcomed the opportunity to apply for up to five days paid leave per year which relieved the pressure and anxiety of juggling all her commitments.

She said, "It was an invaluable weight off my mind knowing that I could take time for appointments and emergencies without having to make complicated arrangements or feel guilty for abandoning my team at the last minute."

Commenting on the recent changes in our Carer's Leave Policy, which include greater flexibility, access and management, Ellen said, "I think the introduction of 'Me Time'—being able to use carers leave for personal wellbeing— is amazing. Some quiet time by yourself can make a big a difference and really help you to cope both physically and emotionally. A little self-care really goes a long way, and often that's the one thing working carers miss out on most, because they are too busy putting others needs before their own.

"As carers, we never know what is around the corner, when emergencies may occur or when home life will hit us hard. The additional flexibility with these new enhancements will no doubt make a huge difference to lots of people by helping them achieve a better work-life balance. 

"Speaking as a line-manager, the new application process and functionality on ERP Business World are welcome changes that simplify things and will help me take care of my colleagues better. I will always ensure that my staff are aware of this policy and that they know about all the supports available to them."

Together with the benefits of paid carers leave, Ellen also credits the general support she has received as a working carer at Renfrewshire Council and the friendly advice from our People & Organisational Development team:

"Both Fiona Sinclair and Ian Whyte in our People and OD team are always on hand and are so helpful. If you ever have any questions, even if you're not sure if you would qualify for support as a working carer, they will be more than happy to help you.

"We all face challenges that are unforeseeable and outside our control—especially as working carers—and none of us have superpowers. I'd recommend everyone finds out about the help that's available and accesses whatever they need. Prioritise your own wellbeing at least as much as you do others and allow yourself some time to recharge. That's what these fantastic supports are for.

"I'm glad I work somewhere that understands the pressures and challenges that we face as carers. I'm blessed with wonderful family, friends and colleagues that always help me when I'm struggling, and they can find a solution and a silver-lining in just about anything. I realise that not everyone is surrounded by a support network like that and that's another reason why the Council doing its bit as an employer to help staff is so valuable."

Get more information about our carers leave policy, the recent enhancements, and the other supports for colleagues with caring responsibilities in the Working at the Council section of our website.

Published Wednesday 12 June 2024