Last month, we had the pleasure of leading an interesting discussion about workplace carers with some very engaged CIPD Bedfordshire and Milton Keynes branch members.
We shared highlights from the recent CIPD and Westfield Health’s research looking at both employer and Carer employee perspectives on the issue.
Discussions with the group revolved around providing provisions and support suitable for a range of different employees with varying needs. Recognition was given for the need for space and permission for carers to respond in ways that best met the needs of their own circumstances.
As we discussed on the evening, there are a broad range of issues that employers can help with, including:
Fluid and flexible ways of working
Quick access to sources of quality information
Acting on opportunities to deploy carers in different areas of the business to develop their skills and afford flexibility
Supporting line managers to work with carers on practical responses to their needs and those of the business
Providing opportunities for networking and peer to peer support
Building confidence to raise issues in a comfortable environment.
The issue of working Carers is of great importance to society, the economy and to organisation’s at large. With the number of working Carers in the UK currently over 3 million and the likelihood that 3 in 5 of us will end up caring for someone in the future (George, 2001), now is the time for action. And, with Carers’ Rights Day just around the corner (November 25th) this is the perfect opportunity to let working Carers know just how much you value them.
GEORGE, M. (2001) It could be you – a report on the chances of becoming a carer. London: Carers UK.
By Claire McCartney
The CIPD recently released research for National Carers’ Week that showed that not enough employers are thinking about or caring for their workplace carers. Almost two-fifths of organisations in this research do not have a carers’ policy and have no plans to introduce one.
As lead author of this research, supporting working carers is an issue I’m passionate about. It’s also an issue that is close to my heart because I’m acutely aware that more and more of my friends and extended family are currently grappling with caring responsibilities whilst also trying to juggle their roles at work and life is anything but easy for them.
Carers are employees with significant caring responsibilities that have a substantial impact on their working lives. These employees are responsible for the care and support of relatives or friends who are older, disabled or seriously ill who are unable to care for themselves (Carers UK).
We need to recognise that the issue of working carers is of great importance to society, the economy and to organisations in general. And it’s not an issue that is going to go away. It is set to grow in importance further as the number of working carers continues to rapidly increase. We know for instance that by 2017 the number of older people needing care is predicted to outstrip the number of adult offspring able to provide this (McNeil and Hunter 2014). That makes organisations’ and governments’responses to working carers ever more important.
The CIPD research builds on previous studies from Carers UK and Employers for Carers, suggesting employers can do more to support carers in the workplace. Carers’ policies need not be prescriptive and help to legitimise the situation of working carers. They also send a clear message to employees that the organisation will support them. It’s clear from this research that neither working carers nor employers favour a prescriptive approach so at the same time we need to think about how we can create and foster an open and inclusive culture where employees feel supported and empowered to respond to situations as they need, as far as possible.
Ultimately, organisations need to be responsive to the growing issue of workplace carers to stop the unnecessary loss of talent to corporate life and to help improve the daily lives of many UK workers who are struggling to balance their caring and work demands.
MCNEIL, C. and HUNTER, J. (2014) The generation strain: collective solutions to care in an ageing society. London: Institute for Public Policy Research.
CARERS UK. (2015) Facts about carers . Policy briefing.October. London: Carers UK.