Who cares for our workplace carers?

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.

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