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A large number of adults already have the responsibility of balancing work life with caring for elderly family members and dependents. Around 3 million full-time workers already have to struggle with this conundrum, but the concern of caring for family members is only going to increase in the future as life expectancy rises and people born in the baby boom generation live for longer. This is going to present issues for both full-time employees and their employers, many of who do not have the policies in place to deal with such workplace issues, according to new statistics.

The Statistics

A new survey from CIPD and Westfield Health found that in the private sector, just 18% of businesses have a written policy in place to support carers in the workplace. This percentage increases to one third of employers when the public sector is included. It seems that carers are currently better off in the public sector where 68% provided their employees with flexible working arrangements that are beyond the statutory requirements.

Shockingly, 38% of employers have no policies at all, nor have any plans to introduce any in the future. This doesn’t bode well for those who provide care yet wish to remain in employment (many of who will as the age of retirement increases) or those who will have to become carers in the future; it’s quoted that 3 in 5 will end up caring for someone at some point in their life. According to Carers UK, the numbers of carers is predicted to increase to 9m over the next 30 years – employers can’t just stick their heads in the sand and think it will go away!

Recommendations for Employers

With just 13% of line mangers offered the necessary training to be able to support working carers, it’s important that more are educated so that they understand the demands that are placed on working carers and are aware of the support available. Having a formal policy in place is likely to be beneficial for employers also with two thirds of organisations who do have a policy in place saying it has made a positive difference in the workplace culture.

There are 5 top reasons in establishing a policy for carers:

  1. It’s the right thing to do,
  2. Improves work life balance,
  3. Increases employee morale & engagement,
  4. Improves retention,
  5. Reduces absences.

Claire McCartney, of the CIPD said: “There are often blurry lines between those who view themselves as carers and those who see themselves as simply doing their duty. Some might not declare themselves as carers at work because they are worried about being treated differently, or they might be concerned that reducing their hours or asking for flexible working could impact negatively on their career progression. As long as the caring agenda remains a hidden issue in the workplace, without clear policies or obvious channels for support, can you blame them? The onus is on employers to create and promote policies and initiatives in the workplace that empower working carers, sending employees a clear message that their organisation will support them.”

Employers are urged to put things into place to empower and support carers before they lose out on key talent. The problem isn’t going away, if anything it is going to become more of an issue without the right proactive action.

CIPD & Westfield Health are calling on more employers to formulate policies to support working carers, such as promoting a flexible working policy, attractive work situations, training for line managers with help and support available.