Recent research that we carried out in partnership with the CIPD has shown that there is a need for employers to recognise that there is an increasing number of employees with caring responsibilities, and that this is having an impact on both the employer and the employee.
Demographic trends driving growth of working carers
Demographic change means that we are all juggling increasingly complex family lives with increasingly demanding working lives. With an ageing population and people living longer than ever before, many employees are finding themselves part of the ‘sandwich generation’ – balancing work with looking after their own children and possibly grandchildren, along with caring for older family members.
Over 3 million workers in the UK provide informal care to sick or older parents or dependants while juggling work1. This is expected to rise as three in five people will end up caring for someone at some point in their lives2. In fact, one in six are already giving up work or reducing their hours to provide care1. This is no longer an emerging trend; this is now a reality for many UK workers and their families.
What is the impact of this growing trend for both the employee and employer?
For the employee, caring is impacting on their working life, as one in five have seen their work disrupted as a result of a caring responsibility; in particular, caring for both children and older loved ones is negatively affecting the employee’s ability to earn, along with restricting opportunities for career progression.
For the employer, caring responsibilities impact levels of absence and productivity. In addition, it’s also impacting employees’ health and wellbeing, through issues such as tiredness, exhaustion and lack of concentration as employees are dealing with the struggles of balancing work and caring responsibilities.
With so many UK workers now facing these struggles, employers must recognise that supporting working carers is the right thing to do as a good employer.
For most employers, the issue is not yet ‘front of mind’
Workplaces have not yet fully recognised the impact of this demographic shift, and at the same time state funding of social care is not keeping pace with demand, causing even more workers to struggle with the balance of work with caring responsibilities.
It’s no surprise that eldercare is becoming one of the fastest growing employee benefits and needs to be on every employer’s agenda.
How can employers help?
Help your business to manage and support your valued employees and their families on their ageing journey. Creating a carers’ policy can help to provide collaborative support, along with creating a culture that openly supports working carers, as 15% of employees have felt uncomfortable broaching the subject of changing working patterns, or accommodating caring responsibilities with their employer3. Providing training to line managers to help them effectively support working carers is also essential, along with creating flexible working which can enable people to stay in work.
Very few employers are measuring how many of their staff have caring responsibilities. In fact, only 26% of employers in the UK do have a formal written policy for supporting employees who are carers. Encouragingly, of those that do, 45% say that it has made a positive difference to their organisation’s culture.
For employers it’s time to recognise that the problem is most likely bigger than they think, and offering flexibility around working hours and providing support will be particularly valued.
The full research report can be read here.
(1) State of caring 2015 [online]. London: Carers UK. Available at: www.carersuk.org/forprofessionals/policy/policy-library/state-of-caring-2015
(2) GEORGE, M. (2001) It could be you – a report on the chances of becoming a carer. London: Carers UK.
(3) WESTFIELD HEALTH. (2016 – unpublished) [Eldercare survey]. April. Sheffield: Westfield Health.