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Inclusive responses for difficult times - caring responsibilities

21 Mar 2020 | Clare Pavitt As universities and colleges focus on reorganising services to respond to the current global health emergency, Principal Adviser for EDI at Advance HE, Clare Pavitt, introduces a series of blogs on what we can do to ensure that the diverse needs of all staff and students in higher education are considered.

Develop and support flexible approaches to work and study that accommodate the needs of staff and students with caring responsibilities

With school closures and increased commitments in relation to the care of older people, more staff and students are likely to need to manage both work and study and caring commitments. Higher education institutions can consider offering support by:

  • agreeing flexible hours of work with members of staff, structured to meet individual needs. Where possible, if the staff member prefers and can balance this with caring responsibilities, this could include working outside traditional business hours

  • allowing staff to temporarily reduce their working hours to accommodate caring responsibilities (providing clear guidance on the implications of this in relation to salary, pension etc)
  • establishing/resourcing a carers’ network to provide advice and support for staff

  • remaining flexible and compassionate to rapidly changing circumstances
  • considering the needs of students with caring responsibilities as learning and teaching moves online or is otherwise adapted

  • ensuring that a shift to online and/or homeworking takes account of the needs of students and staff with occupational health needs/individual learning and support plans. Holding discussions with disabled staff and student representatives to understand the impact on changing provision and circumstances. Providing appropriate and timely support (including access to equipment and changes to reasonable adjustments)
  • providing FAQs or source of support for staff and students who may have urgent questions relating to support workers, auxiliary aids and equipment, access to specialised software or hardware, translation services etc

  • providing wellbeing guidance for online and home-working to staff and students.

As the global health emergency progresses, the challenges that institutions face in meeting the needs of their diverse staff and student communities are likely to become more complex and the responses to those challenges more creative and resourceful.

Advance HE is committed to supporting the sector in these difficult times. Join the conversation on the EDI Practitioners Network on Advance HE Connect

Read more about balancing work with childcare responsibilities in this blogpost by Advance HE Senior Adviser Ellen Pugh.


We feel it is important for voices to be heard to stimulate debate and share good practice. Blogs on our website are the views of the author and don’t necessarily represent those of Advance HE.

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