Care for relatives can apply to anyone

Interview with Katja Hanning, Diversity Manager at ERGO

Magazine, 03.12.2020

If a person suddenly becomes in need of care, this is an exceptional situation for the whole family. ERGO offers employees support during these difficult times. Katja Hanning from the Diversity Team is responsible for the area of care.

Interview with Katja Hanning, Diversity Manager at ERGO

Miss Hanning, what exactly do you do in the Diversity Team at ERGO?

Hanning: I advise expecting parents and caring relatives. In short: I look after everything that has to do with the compatibility of work and family. This also includes providing care counselling.

The topic of care is a very sensitive one. Why is that?

Hanning: Many people who are affected by the topic do not want to talk about it.  They fear that they will be perceived as less resilient in the company. On the other hand, it are precisely these employees who need help and are grateful that there is a contact point in the company for them. When people think of nursing care, they often first think of older people. But it is also possible that your own child or partner is in need of care.

How can you help people who are confronted with the issue of care?

Hanning: In general, we would like to support our employees in balancing work and family life.  Family does not only mean children, but also, for example, parents in need of care. ERGO offers help in various directions. First of all, it is important to know that there is a focus on the topic of care and that there is someone like me in the company who can be approached. This did not exist ten years ago.

The colleagues who come to me first tell me about their situation. Often a lot of pressure has built up - both emotionally and physically. Then we look together at how we can make the situation easier in concrete terms. I don't have such intensive talks every week, maybe once a month. Otherwise I can also support them with shorter information. In any case, it is increasing all the time.

The financial questions about care and the search for care are very complex issues. We have brought the nursing advice service on board for this, which our employees can contact by telephone around the clock and free of charge. Consultation appointments can also be arranged and courses can be taken.

It can happen unpredictably that, for example, the parents' condition suddenly worsens to such an extent that they need care.  Most people are unprepared for this and have to balance the new situation in their private lives with their jobs. What can you do?

Hanning: If care has to be organised at short notice or nursing care has to be guaranteed, employees can take up to ten days off in accordance with the regulations of the nursing care insurance - in contrast to this, however, without salary deductions and unbureaucratic.  In addition, there are various ways of gaining time, which is very important in this phase. One solution, for example, could be to convert the holiday or Christmas bonus into time off - our most flexible measure when it comes to gaining time.

This creates a free contingent of hours for organising the new situation or accompanying visits to the doctor. In the longer term, a limited part-time job can be a possibility, so that after the period of time has expired, one automatically returns to full-time work.

In the case of "family time", things then become more serious. If a relative is dying, the employee can stay at home immediately and receives half his or her salary during this time and the same period afterwards. I know from my own experience how important it is to be with your father in this situation, for example, and to be able to concentrate fully on him and the situation without the pressure of what the time account shows.

Why is it so important that companies like ERGO take care of the issue of care for their employees in this way? You once spoke of a "care-sensitive corporate culture"...

Hanning: This term fits very well, because companies need to have a great interest in ensuring that their employees do not become sick sooner or later as a result of the mental and physical burden that the care situation creates.

What are the reactions of the employees you talk to?

Hanning: I am met with a great deal of gratitude. Gratitude and relief, because the employees feel that ERGO stands behind them and offers possibilities of support. Surprisingly, these conversations - even though you are strangers to each other - very quickly become very personal and emotional. Sometimes they even tell me things that they would never tell anyone else.

It can also happen that they start to cry, so that I almost start crying too. But the gratitude is very big that there is someone who listens to them and offers solutions. Of course, the conversations also occupy me personally. But they don't bother me because I could help. When the colleagues feel better afterwards, it is a very good feeling.

How do Managers react to employees who open up and ask for help?

Hanning: Usually there is a great deal of understanding for the employees.  After all, it can happen to anyone that they suddenly have to care for their relatives. Managers know that too. Some of them have experienced it themselves. It is important to find constructive solutions for all sides. And I am happy to help.

In your opinion, what else needs to be done in the area of care counselling?  

Hanning: Care should no longer be so stigmatised.  I would like to see it addressed more openly. A network like the ERGO Inclusion Network, in which employees in the situation of having to provide care also exchange information, is a good step. It allows people to exchange experiences and overcome inhibitions.  

What would you say to people who have found themselves in exactly this situation of having to deal with the care of their relatives?

Hanning: Don't be afraid or ashamed. Allow yourself to be supported. The conversations with us are completely confidential. It is important that you inform yourself early enough to be better prepared.

The interview was conducted by Stefanie Neumann and Benjamin Esche

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