Carers in the Workforce
Carers and the NHS - What employers should know
The 2001 Census told us that there are nearly six million people providing care to a family member, friend or neighbour who could not manage without their help due to age, disability or addiction. This number is increasing annually, and is likely to be 13 million by 2010.
It is estimated that over three million people in the UK combine work and care. There is constant change as people move in and out of caring – so the proportion of your workforce likely to be affected at some time or another will be large. Also, the peak age for caring is 45-64 (one-fifth of adults in this age range provide care) – when many employees, after years of developing their skills and increasing their experience, will be reaching the peak of their usefulness to you.
Why should we care about carers?
Recognising that there are carers in your workforce, and supporting them to manage their caring responsibilities and work can:
- reduce stress and improve job performance
- improve job satisfaction
- improve commitment to the organisation
- decrease staff turnover
How can we support carers?
1. Recognise them:
Unlike parents, many carers are invisible in the workforce, reluctant to discuss their personal situation and unaware of the support available to them.
- Quote “carers” specifically in policies and other documentation
- Nominate a key contact in the workplace
- Set up an internal Carers Forum – to allow carers to meet together occasionally – for mutual support, information sharing and to raise the profile of caring in the organisation. Allow time for carer staff to attend the Forum.
2. Support them:
Caring is often less predictable than child-care. Flexible working policies need to include the flexibility to change arrangements as caring responsibilities change. They also need to recognise the possibility of emergencies arising.
Implement flexible working policies compliant with the current law, and allowing as much flexibility for change as is consistent with business needs. Also organise training for managers in carer awareness.
3. Inform them:
The impact of caring can be much better managed and controlled if carers have good information about services and support available.
- Advertise contact information about the local Carers Support Organisation
- Website links with Carers Trust
- Provide resources to support the internal Carers Forum
- Hold information events
- Forge formal links with service provider organisations
- Introduce employee assistance schemes