Let me introduce myself, my name is John Stephen. I’m a fulltime carer for my elderly mother Ina who’s 80 years old. I could have discussed many topics today, as I’ve been a carer really all my life, even as a child. The point where me and my mum are at this time is that unfortunately my mum has been informed by the doctors that she only as months to live. We’ve been told as a family to prepare for the end of life.
I myself work fulltime due to necessity. We are not a family of financial means and are only 1 pay check away from being in financial hardship. I wish to speak about employment and being in the workplace as a carer.
Before I do, may I take this opportunity just to say life wasn’t always this hard. I’ve travelled most of my working life and had a comfortable lifestyle. Before 2006 I was commanding a salary of 8000£ and owned 4 properties. One was in Dunoon, which I used as a holiday home for my mum, as she had worked in Dunoon with her gran back in 1949.
One day in 2006 life changed dramatically for me and my family. My employer let me fly down to London, as I often did on a Monday. I arrived at the office with a notice on the glass doors, telling staff that the company had unfortunately went into administration. The doors we closed, and so was the company. No warning at all. I had to pay for my own journey home. My world had collapsed around me like a pack of playing cards.
At this point I realised I was owed over 20.000£ in commission and my 8000£ salary was due to be paid in 4 days (which I never received). Then I had the mortgages to pay and all the bills on top of that also. I had no rights as an employee, I would have to fight to for scraps, as would the creditors, employees etc. That’s the day I realised about not having any rights in the workplace. I vowed I would never let this happen to myself again.
Once again I find myself in financial hardship, only this time because I’m a carer and my elderly mum needs me.
My last pay was on the 10th of April and I had 320£ deducted from that as they overpaid my sick pay. I’ve had to go for foodparcels. Even my own brother mocked me by saying “at least I have a job”. Society as a whole has to look at how they perceive just how important a carer’s role is.
The new carers (Scotland) act 2016 came in to force on the 1st of April 2018. Instilling optimism that the rights of carers are further recognised and reinforced. The carers (Scotland) act identifies the duty of local authorities in supporting cares and ensuring more consistent and better support is available, promoting health and wellbeing. I could go on about promoting quality of life but can I bring to your attention to carers that are employed, hold down a fulltime job, not only do they have to deal with their everyday caring role, but the added responsibility of work commitment is even more pressure, financial restrains, time management, planning in advance what your day will consist of. Also, is the person you care for safe?
More to the point, what time remains for yourself?
I myself not only care full time, but in my work environment I volunteer as lead coordinator for the equality team in corporate HR on behalf of carers within a company of many thousands of carers. I do this to make sure carers that work have access to information that supports their caring role. I help facilitate lunch-time events – that’s giving up my lunch breaks. This is what I do for my employer. Shall I tell you what they do for me in return?
I’ve titled this “who cares for me?”. The local authority and the work place when you question the system. They protect themselves. On the other hand they say how their carers policies are there to protect carers, but they don’t help me or others in my position.
The truth is, ask any carer in the work environment. Need me, find me, want me, but in my time of need won’t pay me. The system looks after their own interests, and not what’s best for carers.
In most countries in the world they look after their elderly and their employees. Not in the UK. You only have to look to the WASPI women and see that this must change. As a nation we should be leading the way in employment law. Unfortunately, as a carer in employment we are discriminated against. No warning that your pay is stopping when the person you care for becomes terminally ill. Carers in the workplace. Where is our protection, equality for carers as a nation. Prove it. Prove that you care and start being a leader and lead by example.