In this blog, we explore a growing issue which often flies under the radar, namely the challenge of being a working carer and its impact on employee well-being. More than 3 million workers in the UK (about 10% of the workforce) are already balancing work with providing care to an older relative or dependent, and with changing demographics and an aging population, this number is set to grow significantly over the coming decades (note 1). It is therefore important for employers to consider the “sandwich generation” who have to balance work with caring for older family members and children, and the impact it has on well-being, absence rates and family finances.
In June 2016, a survey by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development in partnership with Westfield Health (note 2), found that employers are generally open to discussing caring responsibilities with their employees, and 26% have a formal written policy accounting for the needs of carers, with a further 8% having an informal or verbal policy in place. However only about 20% of employers actually measure how many carers they have in their workforce, and 38% have no plans to introduce a working carer policy.
The survey also found that the well-being and finances of working carers was impacted. Tiredness is common, and lack of time for others was also a concern, with social support networks being known as one of the most important factors for managing well-being and resilience. As well as the burden of travel and treatment costs, the carers surveyed also expressed concern about the impact of reduced hours on earning power and career progression, and the ability to save for the long term and for their pensions. In fact other research has shown that one in six people give up work or reduce their hours to care for others, and one in five have seen their work negatively impacted as a result of having a caring responsibility (note 3).
While the survey found that many employers already offer support such as flexible leave arrangements, flexible working hours and use of telephone and making time for calls, it was also recommended that more recognition is needed for the physical and emotional effects of caring, as well as more financial support for those in true need. With current trends, it is estimated that 3 in 5 people will end up caring for someone at some point in their lives, so now is the time for the subject of working carers to find its way fully onto the radar screen.
If you are a CEO, senior leader, HR Director or senior manager with an interest in mental health at work, attend the event on September 13th (2 pm to 8 pm) that is being co-hosted by Dynamic Voice, a learning and development consultancy, and Maytree Suicide Respite Centre. This highly interactive event will contribute to the vital organisational debate on mental health at work, challenge the mental health taboo, and identify practical actions that organisations of any size can take to enhance mental health at work.
For more information see our event information: https://dynamicvoice.co.uk/blog/2016/08/12/event-wellbeing-in-the-workplace
To book your place: http://bit.ly/wellbeingatwork2016
Note 1: GEORGE, M. (2001): It could be you – a report on the chances of becoming a carer. London: Carers UK.
Note 2: CIPD (2016): Creating an enabling future for carers in the workplace
Note 3: Carers UK (2015b): State of Caring in 2015