A working carer is someone in full or part-time employment, who also provides unpaid support or care to a family member or friend because they require additional help due to their age, physical or mental illness, or disability.
With an estimated 3.7 million working carers in England and Wales, there is a growing number of people balancing their jobs with caring responsibilities.
Plus, by 2050, it is projected that the world’s population of people aged 85 or older will increase fivefold, and in the UK 11 million people alive today will live to be at least 100 years old. This means the demand for care is likely to dramatically rise and businesses will find themselves with an ever-increasing number of employees needing extra support to stay in their roles.
What is the current situation for working carers?
In June 2021, the CIPD released the results of a study undertaken in the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic, examining how working carers are currently coping. Here’s some of the key findings:
- 28% of carers (equivalent to 700,000 employees in the UK) who work full-time also provide at least 30 hours of care per week – equivalent to a second full-time job.
- Half of working carers felt that their caring responsibilities affected their job.
- Over a third (36%) had refused a job offer or promotion, or decided against applying for a role.
- 28% of working carers had not talked to anyone at work about their caring responsibilities, with just over a third (39%) saying this was because they didn’t believe they’d receive any support and a fifth (22%) saying it was ‘not the sort of thing that people talk about at work’ implying a workplace culture not regarded as carer-friendly.
- Just 39% believed that their organisation supported them when their caring affected their job.
How can organisations support working carers?
Support in the workplace makes a substantial difference to working carers’ ability to manage their roles with their caring responsibilities. Those who believe their employer is carer-friendly are less likely to find it difficult to concentrate on their work, take sick leave, turn down a promotion or consider reducing their hours or giving up their job entirely.
Here are some key steps you can take to help working carers feel like they have a place in your business:
- Formally recognise working carers – Seems obvious, but making a simple statement showing you understand the important role they play in their families and communities is a good start in developing effective measures and creating a culture that is supportive of working carers.
- Listen – Before jumping into creating supportive measures, proactively listen to carers in your workforce – be it through one-to-one meetings, surveys or focus groups – to understand what help is most needed.
- Create a policy document – Clearly write down all the support you can offer working carers in your organisation and ensure this is communicated effectively to all employees. A lack of knowledge of the help on offer has been attributed to the reason why 14% of working carers in England and Wales have not made use of existing support provided by their employers.
What supportive measures should be included within my policy?
There is a raft of support that could be made available to working carers, including:
Flexitime – An overwhelming majority (95%) of carers who, according to the CIPD’s research, were able to utilise flexitime to fulfil their working hours said their caring responsibilities were made much easier as a consequence.
Working from home – Similarly, 95% of carers who were given the opportunity to work from home found this support particularly beneficial.
Paid carers’ leave – According to the law, all employees have the right to take a ‘reasonable’ amount of time off work to deal with an emergency or unforeseen matter involving a dependent, but the time off is unpaid unless paid leave is offered by your employer as a contractual right. Currently, just 9% of working carers are offered paid leave. Why not consider offering appropriate periods of paid leave for the carers in your workplace?
Private calls – Allow carers to take breaks at work to make private phone calls to check-in with their dependents or arrange medical appointments or assistance.
Peer support groups – Create a peer support group for working carers in your business which could serve as a source of information for employees, a chance for carers to collate feedback to pass onto their managers and a way to share support and improve general wellbeing.
Counselling – At least 60% of working carers report struggles with their mental health, therefore offering counselling and wellbeing guidance can be effective elements of your workplace support.
If you’re looking for help in supporting working carers in your business, Tell Jane can lend a hand. We’re offering a training workshop specifically designed to raise awareness of the issues faced by working carers, why it’s important they feel supported at work and how you can achieve this in your organisation. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to get started.