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One in six Brits have taken time off to care for elderly relatives

Almost one in six British workers (16%) have had to take time off work, or work irregular hours, to care for an elderly relative, new research has revealed.


This presents a challenge for business in helping employees to balance work with caring commitments to avoid an impact on sickness absence. More than a third of those workers (34%) claim they have had to take sick leave to fulfil caring responsibilities, according to the study of 1,197 workers by Willis PMI Group, part of Willis Towers Watson.


The research also revealed 39% have taken time off as annual leave at some point due to the need to care for a relative, while 32% have taken compassionate leave. Only 21% were granted flexible working by their employers.


Mike Blake (pictured), director at Willis PMI Group, said, “An ageing workforce poses a number of significant challenges for UK business. Already, 30 per cent of the country’s workforce is over the age of 501, meaning many will find themselves needing to juggle work with the responsibility of caring for an elderly relative, often a parent.


“Often employees will find it difficult to ask for help and may try to continue working as if nothing is wrong, which is why it is important for businesses to ensure the appropriate support is in place to avoid an impact on sickness absence.


“Flexible working is a positive step but employers may also consider eldercare benefits. These schemes are not yet commonly used but can help to provide everything from extra care at home to assistance with financial planning.”


There also appears to be demand among employees for greater eldercare provision.


More than half of those surveyed (56%) called for employee benefit providers to offer more services that provide support and guidance for people with caring responsibilities.


Blake added, “Although the primary responsibility rests with businesses to ensure their employees feel they have access to sufficient support, a challenge exists for benefit providers too.


“In the face of an ageing workforce, the industry will need to work harder to provide creative solutions that meet the needs of both employers and employees.”

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