The pro-carer culture supporting EY employees
EY’s flexible focus was one of the main reasons why HR leader Cherylan Martindale was attracted to the company. As a mother of two young children, she knew that being empowered to work flexibly would be good for her work life balance – and it was. But when her father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, this flexibility became all the more critical.
“When you’re supporting your parents through something like Alzheimer’s, there’s just so much to consider. On a practical level, I had to juggle hospital appointments, memory clinics, solicitors, phone calls and so on. But I also had to support my mum emotionally, as she adjusted to a new and very different reality.”
“Being upfront about my situation made all the difference”
While initially Cherylan was able to manage by using up some of her holiday, and working into the evenings to catch up on lost time, she soon realised that being a ‘hidden carer’ wasn’t sustainable. So instead of struggling on, she spoke to her manager about it. And the response was just what she needed.
“My manager was super empathetic. She simply asked what I needed to make my situation manageable, and made it clear that she trusted me to make the right choices in relation to how, when and where I worked, in order to manage my family responsibilities. She knew I would make sure that the critical things got done.”
“The culture here makes it easy to be open about what you need”
Cherylan believes that EY’s supportive culture is a critical factor in helping carers balance their work and family lives. “EY is known for having a really flexible ethos, and we are all encouraged to focus on our outputs and work in a way that delivers exceptional service to our clients, whilst maintaining our own well-being. But there’s so much more to it than that. There is a real sense here that you can be open about your situation, whatever it might be, and that you will be supported to find a way through any challenges you face.”
And that support comes from all directions, not just from senior managers, as Cherylan has found. “The team I lead have completely rallied round and supported me. For example, when I’ve had to spend an afternoon in the hospital with my dad, they have rolled their sleeves up, picked up and led a number of priorities, and updated me on my return.”
“Our Carers Network will offer extra advice and support”
One way in which EY encourages this kind of openness is through employee-led networks, which bring people with similar situations or interests together to learn from and support each other. EY’s recently launched Carers Network will be running a series of webinars that will share knowledge and advice about dementia. Plans for future sessions include practical advice on things like how to discuss creating a Lasting Power of Attorney with elderly relatives, and how to recognise early warning signs.
“Choose your employer carefully and be honest from day one”
Cherylan is keen to act as a role model, by talking candidly about her situation so that others feel able to do the same. And she believes that, for job-hunters, this openness is absolutely critical.
“If you’re a carer who’s looking to move jobs or get back into work, it’s vital that you identify how supportive a potential employer might be. Explore their website, looking at what they say about important topics such as inclusivity and flexibility. Try to find out what networks they offer for employees; talk to anyone you know who works, or has worked, there.
“And before accepting a job offer, be honest about your situation. If you don’t, you’re likely to struggle to balance your work and home lives, and you could end up feeling like you are doing neither well. That could have a huge impact on your mental health, as well as your physical ability to cope.”
For carers who are looking after elderly relatives, this advice is particularly pertinent, Cherylan feels. “The fact is, if you’re dealing with something like dementia, you never know what’s round the corner. Accidents happen, and the situation is only likely to get worse. When my dad’s condition seriously deteriorated, we were in crisis mode for a while. I was having to spend whole days at the hospital with him and my mum, and flex my work around it.
“If I’d been working elsewhere at that point, I’d have probably ended up resigning. My mum and dad have been there for me all my life, so I wanted to do the same for them. But EY were just phenomenal and have made it possible for me to stay and succeed. The support I have received from everyone here has been second to none.”
This article has been written in association with EY, one of our Timewise Partners