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What are employers doing to help carers in the workforce? Lucie Mitchell investigates.
It is estimated that around one in seven people in the workforce – around five million workers – are trying to balance work and caring responsibilities, while 2.6 million have quit their job to care for a loved one. The majority are female.
“More than 600 people give up work every day to care – nearly half a million have done so in the last two years alone – taking with them talent and sometimes years of experience,” says Katherine Wilson, head of employment at Carers UK.
With our ageing population and the need to work for longer, support for carers in the workplace is becoming an increasingly important issue for employers.
It’s therefore crucial that employers provide a ‘carer-friendly’ workplace for their employees, to not only provide vital support but guard against a loss of productivity, revenue and key talent.
“Family carers are providing approximately 149 million hours of care each week, and the sheer amount of time that Brits are having to spend care-giving could put considerable pressure on the workforce, ranging from higher absenteeism and lost productivity to a greater risk of distraction and even burnout,” remarks Kelly Feehan, service director at wellness charity CABA.
So what can employers do to support their employees who are carers?
The research by Carers UK found that 89% of UK employees felt a supportive line manager or understanding employer would be important to them, while 88% want the option to work flexibly, and 80% would like five to 10 days’ paid care leave.
A good place to start is to implement a carers’ policy, which clearly outlines the steps you will take to support employees who have caring responsibilities, including flexible working or granting extended leave where necessary.
They could also signpost employees to support groups.
Employers for Carers, a business forum supported by Carers UK, has launched Carer Confident, a UK-wide employer benchmarking scheme to help encourage employers to create supportive workplaces for staff with caring responsibilities.
“The scheme recognises and accredits those employers who have built supportive and inclusive workplaces for carers,” explains Wilson. “This could be through recruitment policies, flexible working and leave provision, training, coaching or staff support networks.”