Is your workplace carer-friendly?

If not, it will almost certainly hurt your business, argues Deborah Stone of Mature Thinking. That’s because caring is increasingly becoming a part of people’s lives as our population continues to age and fewer and fewer qualify for support – and the nation’s growing army of informal carers are struggling to combine work and care.

A look at the statistics shows why. Almost 3.7 million employees in England and Wales are working carers, with almost three-quarters of them in fulltime employment.  A third of these workers provide 30 or more hours of care a week for loved ones – the equivalent of holding down a second fulltime job.

Not surprisingly, 44% of working carers report that they find it difficult to combine

their paid employment and caring responsibilities, while more than half believe that their caring responsibilities are affecting their work, due to stress, tiredness and an inability to concentrate fully.

In fact, 29% of working carers said that they were considering reducing their working hours as a result of these pressures, while 24% were actually considering giving up their job because of their caring role.

At a time of severe skills shortages, the impact on the economy is significant: over 2.5 million people over 50 have given up work in order to care and at least five percent of employees take a day a month off sick to manage their caring responsibilities. Employees also spend an average of 16 hours searching for care, 80% of which is done on work time.

How companies can support the carers on their payroll?

So how can companies reduce the impact on their staff… and productivity?

Formally recognising working carers is an important step for companies to take in developing effective measures to create a supportive culture for carers. It is important to develop these policies in consultation with carers and that the agreed policies are as flexible as possible, to benefit as many different working and caring circumstances as may be needed.

Offering care referral services is one route: companies who offer them save an average of £2 million per annum in productivity as well as reduce sickness absence. It also helps to lower staff turnover: recruitment is an expensive business, as is training the person coming into the new role.

Offering the options of working from home and flexitime are particularly beneficial, with 95% of those who could work from home and 95% of those who were able to use flexitime said that their caring role was easier as a consequence.

Providing counselling and wellbeing guidance is also an extremely part of carer workplace support, while mental wellbeing is higher among working carers in organisations that provide support.

The bottom line…

Caring is increasingly becoming a part of more and more people’s lives as our population continues to age, significantly affecting the professional and personal lives of millions of people whose skills and experience are highly valued in the workplace.

These companies who incorporate carer-friendly initiatives within their organisation’s benefit strategy will benefit themselves and see the results on the bottom line, both through the retention of existing staff and the recruitment of future employees.

For more information on developing your care benefit support package, or to book a seminar or webinar to support staff who are currently caring or who will be in the future, contact us here:

Sources: Institute of employment studies, Carers UK, University of Sheffield

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