What employers should know
- There are around seven million carers in the UK, of whom 4.27 million are of working age.
- According to the 2011 census, 42% are men and 58% women.
- Every year in the UK over 2.3 million adults become carers and over 2.3 million adults stop being carers.
- Three in five people will be carers at some point in their lives in the UK.
- Nearly one in eight workers is a carer.
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.
The peak age for caring is 45-64 – 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 in our workforce?
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 group or forum – to allow carers to meet together occasionally – for mutual support, information sharing and to raise the profile of caring in the organisation. Depending on the type and structure of your organisation, this might be a face to face or virtual group. Allow time for the carers you employ to attend the group.
Offer practical support through your employment policies and practices
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. Review all your employment policies to ensure they are ‘carer friendly’ – for example, does your policy on stress management recognise the complex linkages between work related and home related stress? Also organise training for managers in carer awareness.
Ask them what will help them to successfully combine work and caring
The people who know best what will really make a difference to their ability to do a good job for you and keep up with their caring responsibilities at the same time, are the carers themselves. There are often small and inexpensive things employers can do to help – such as:
- allowing employees to leave mobile telephones on in meetings in case of emergencies
- flexing start and finish times to help people deal with caring commitments before and after work
- allowing people time and access to a telephone to check on the person they care for from time to time while working.
So ask them. Surveys, focus groups and employee carer groups are all useful ways to find out what the carers you employ would value.
Then develop a specific Carers in Employment policy setting out the various ways your organisation will support carers in the workforce.
The impact of caring can be much better managed and controlled if carers have good information about services and support available.