Pulled in all directions: How to support employees who care

There are many things to be grateful for in the twenty first century.  We are living longer, loving whom we like and accepting those who differ from us.  A greater move towards tolerance and diversity in the workplace has provided opportunities to numerous individuals who may not have been able to voice their experience or expertise in generations before. 

Better healthcare provision as well as research into curing serious illnesses has resulted in healthier, longer lives for many.

In accordance with this, however, we have seen an increase in the pension age of employees in the UK, meaning that individuals need to work longer than ever, before they are entitled to their state pension.

Population dilemma

The UK has long known that it is facing an aging population dilemma, whereby the number of people in older age groups are fast outgrowing the number of births in the country.  There are now more people aged 65 and over than there are aged 18 and under, meaning that the biggest care category for working individuals is no longer childcare, but in fact eldercare. Moreover, not all carers are just parents, but also grandparents, having multi-generational care responsibilities and stresses.

Understanding employers

Catherine Foot, the Director of Evidence at the Centre for Aging Better believes that the best way forward is for employers to understand the strain that caring puts on employees and making workspaces flexible and better provided for those who care.

“Caring for a parent is now the most prevalent type of caring and, with people living longer, it is likely to become more common in future. More and more people will face the difficult reality of managing the everyday pressures of life while at the same time caring for a loved one.

“Caring responsibilities can significantly impact people’s ability to keep working. By the year people reach State Pension Age, nearly half of all people have already stopped working, and caring is a major contributor to this.”

Eldercare support and provision is therefore imperative in order to retain the best talent employers have and is a vital sphere for investment.

What are the solutions?

So, what are the solutions? How can employers best invest in their people when it comes to eldercare?

As with all relationships in life, communication is key.  Having open dialogue with your employees and taking a regular census of how employees are coping with care will keep managers up to date with the ever-changing needs of their team members. 

Another key feature to consider is having a dedicated care policy within your company specifically aimed at those with caring responsibilities beyond childcare.  In a survey carried out by XpertHr, only 9.3% of organisations questioned had a dedicated carers policy in writing.  This lack of clarity can create uncertainty and confusion within the workspace and leave employees feeling unsure of what they can and cannot ask of their employer.

One thing that all employees are entitled to ask of their employer is flexible working.

Indeed, research shows that “policies that go beyond the law on the right to request flexible working can benefit both the employee and employer”.  Carers often find that their circumstances can change quickly, and they have to be responsive to the immediate needs of those they care for, so “an informal procedure for making ad hoc requests to work flexibly in addition to a formal flexible working procedure can help employers to be more responsive to carers’ needs”.

Another component to consider is ad hoc leave requests for carers.  If an elderly relative falls or needs hospital treatment, it may be that an employee will need to request immediate leave.  Whilst the Employment Rights Act of 1996 does make a provision for reasonable unpaid time off work to deal with emergencies that deal with a dependant, greater clarity from employers as to the specificity of leave and support would go a long way to easing employees concerns as to what they can reasonably ask for in terms of support and how it would affect their salary and benefits.

Finally, investing in employee wellbeing support programmes and initiatives will really demonstrate an interest in workers who care and provide opportunities for people to better understand their rights, their responsibilities and how best to support one another in the workspace.  There is a growing market in eldercare support and informative presentations, like those provided by Parental Choice, to support consultancy can really help both employer and employee navigate the difficult waters that is managing a work/care lifestyle.

How Parental Choice can help

Parental Choice’s team of experts help those with eldercare responsibilities with impartial advice and consultations and searches for residential care homes. 

We work with employers to deliver wellbeing programmes designed to help employees cope with life’s challenges.  Topics include talks on eldercare and caring for carers.

Get in touch to see how Parental Choice Eldercare Services for employees can help you to be a more caring employer.

020 8979 6453  |  info@parentalchoice.co.uk

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