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Employers need to do more to help carers

Despite the need for more support for carers at work, there were some positive results from employers. Of the 100 HR managers questioned, one in three (33%) said they have specific policies or communications targeting their carers at work and most of the organisations had wider benefits that would support carers, with the most popular methods of support being:

Access to an employee helpline or assistance programme (80%)

A culture that is supportive of flexibility (80%)

Provision of technology to work remotely (77%)

Paid time off to deal with family emergencies (71%)

In the survey of 1,000 consumers, it found that many felt that while their employer focussed heavily on the childcare responsibilities of their workforce, very few had procedures in place for those carers of parents, grandparents, siblings or partners.  35% of employees said they rarely or never have any kind of support network available to them – unlike new parents who tend to build a network of people going through the same & lsquo;ages and stages’ as them.

Almost 7 million adults in the UK are providing unpaid care to a sick, disabled (of any age) or elderly person.  Over 3 million people combine this care with paid work, which means around 1 in 9 of the UK workforce has caring responsibilities.  The rise in pension age and an ageing population means the number is growing rapidly.

Ben Black, director of My Family Caresays, “This research really highlights the need for businesses to find out who of their staff are caring for loved ones and may be in need of extra help.  The rise of the & lsquo;invisible carer’ is a very current thing which is only going to get worse as our population ages and more and more people will have to balance work with their caring responsibilities.

“A big thing that came out of our research was the sheer diversity of their caring responsibilities – what they do, how they do it, who they care for, how many hours are involved and how they feel about it.  While working parents are easy for employers to spot, carers of parents, grandparents, partners or siblings come in all shapes and sizes and often feel uncomfortable talking about their private lives at work.  As a result it’s so important for businesses to reach out, find out more about their employees otherwise they risk losing their very best talent.”

Backup care is one solution to the problems carers face with more than half (52%) saying they would appreciate this support.  Examples of companies that do - through their work with My Family Care - include KPMG, Citi and Centrica. The impact is improved employee engagement, motivation, productivity and staff retention. 

The research also found that employees felt their line managers were key to helping them balance work and family, while many wanted access to more flexibility.  However, more than half (52%) of carers were concerned that flexible working would adversely affect their career progression, with 63% of people thinking that those who work flexibly could be seen as less committed by their company or colleagues.

Debbie Rotchell from enei (The Employers Network for Equality & Inclusion)says, “This research shows that employers are keen to support carers at work but there is still a gap between what carers would like and what employers currently provide. Our results found a wide range of approaches some organisations have a wealth of tailored policies and procedures whilst others don't have any formal guidance for carers, but have flexibility in the way they support employees to find bespoke arrangements that balance everyone's needs.

“There is no 'one size fits all' approach to supporting carers in the workplace but it's certainly a good start when organisations know who their carers are and talk to them about the support they would like. With an ageing population and an increase in people with caring responsibilities, employers and employees must find a way of working together and talking openly about their issues in order to find the best solutions.

My Family Care and enei have created a downloadable information pack, giving companies expert advice on best practice when it comes to helping their caring workforce. To download please click here.

And together with enei and Age UK, My Family Care will be holding an HR webinar on Thursday 18th June (11.00-11.45am) entitled The Ageing Workforce Debate: The challenges of an ageing workforce.It is free to take part and you can sign up here.

On Thursday 2nd July at 12.30pm, My Family Care are running a free webinar for anyone who is interested in combining work and caring for a loved one.  The webinar will focus on practical tips from the experts on keeping work and home on tract.   To sign up click here.


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