CareWise Spotlight

Hawkes Bay carer Tracey Dorward felt she had no option but to quit her job. Now she’s working again, for a more flexible employer.

Tracey Dorward resigned from her last job after her mother had an accident and her employer wouldn’t let her go to the hospital.

‘I said my Mum needs me more, and left. I thought I’d lose my job, but it didn’t matter because I was worried about Mum. I returned to work the next day to pick up the pieces.’ Her employer’s lack of empathy about her mother’s accident and serious injury, and what this meant for Tracey, led to her resignation soon after.

‘We were a very small branch so had limited staff. When I tried to talk about my role as a carer and the need for flexibility, I was told this might not be the job for me.’

Tracey went on a benefit while she supported her Mum and thought about her next steps.

This included soul-searching about what Tracey wanted in a future job, how many hours a week she could work whilst supporting her Mum and her Dad (who also has disabilities), and her need for flexibility due to her caring role.

Tracey connected with Carers NZ to learn more about its Work + Learn programme, which helps carers like her explore employment options. She also worked with community networks to help shape her return to work plan. These relationships (and Tracey’s own proactive search for work) led to three job offers, and a new job in Napier, working with people experiencing challenges like her own.

‘The inability to take time off work to support Mum in a difficult and scary situation is what made me leave my previous role. The same employer also made it difficult for me to be at Dad’s bedside when he had his heart attack, which was luckily mild.’

With her dual caring role for her parents, and health challenges of her own, Tracey had to make some hard decisions about juggling work, care, and earning.

While thinking about her next moves, she drew up a wish list including what she was looking for in a new employer. Considerations included thinking about her hours of availability, and the need for an employer who was flexible so she could attend her parents’ medical appointments and deal with any emergencies.

Tracey now works as a receptionist for the Napier Family Centre, whose services include budgeting, counselling, family support, courses, and childcare. She is the face and voice of the organisation.

‘It’s a busy role which requires managing many balls at once, but so rewarding because you are helping others in their time of need.’

Tracey and her employer have negotiated her work hours, and best of all she now feels valued.

‘They have made it clear they don’t want to lose me despite my caring realities, which is lovely after my last experience!’

Tracey’s advice for workplaces

  •         Show staff who are family carers that you care, and want to understand their situation and help.
  •         Employees who can create work/life balance will be more productive at work.
  •         Talk about issues sooner rather than later, because there may be things that can be solved early.
  •         Seek outside help to learn what resources are out there to help caring employees.
  •         Consider four day weeks and job sharing, which make it easier for valued staff to combine work and care.


  •       Knowing what you want is key. I wanted an employer who was flexible and happy for me to only work four full days a week.
  •       Think about your strengths and weaknesses, both personal and work-related. My biggest strength is my love of caring and supporting others, so I wanted to work in an area where this could be done. I had done a lot of admin over the years, so focused on what would be required for this, such as computer and communication skills. I didn’t want a job that required more study or too much more learning, as I had done plenty in my time.
  •   Ideally I wanted to work in my home town of Hastings, but would take a role in Napier for the right money. This is what happened.
  •       I thought about the impact of my job on my parents, and the financial viability of taking on work with its added costs, such as travel.
  •   It’s good to tap into any available community support. I found work via my medical practice, which put me in touch with the East Coast Wellness team, who help people with health issues find jobs. They were a big support and helped me get through some tough times.
  •   Ensure you have a strong CV that covers off any employment gaps. My weakness was cover letters, but advice from ECW and the TradeMe Jobs website helped a lot.
  •       I kept a journal of what jobs I had applied for, contacts, when applications were submitted, and the outcome. I also included details about interviews. This was all useful for Work & Income to show I was being proactive about job searching.
  •       I practised before job interviews. ECW gave me tips and guidelines on how to best answer possible questions. I developed my own cue cards to read and memorise. Carers NZ’s Work + Learn programme also provides coaching for interviews.
  •       The hardest part was receiving rejection after rejection when applying for jobs. At times I did want to give up, but looked at my approach to job hunting, and how to improve things that might not be working.
  •       In the end I connected with Able Personnel, a recruitment agency. Interviews were my biggest challenge due to anxiety and panic attacks. Working with them allowed me to try for different jobs and bypass the interview process. Able was great – they accepted my limitations and worked with me to explore a wide range of jobs.
  •       This journey has allowed me to discover my abilities.
    It allowed me to think about what I could do and what I really wanted, ending up in the role I now have!