Although there is still much work to be done, it is increasingly recognised that being a parent is a full-time job and that working parents (particularly working mothers) need all the help they can get. At Parental Choice we have long been conscious of the challenges of juggling work and childcare and our services have developed to smooth the way to a happier and more productive life both at home and in the office.
A recent report from the CIPD and the University of Sheffield (Supporting working carers: How employers and employees can benefit) has highlighted the need for much greater support on behalf of employers for other types of working carer in England and Wales.
Defining a carer as “anyone who helps or looks after a family member or friend who needs care and support as a result of old age, physical illness, disability, mental health problems or addiction” the report (using figures from the ONS and Carers UK) states that there are 3.7 million such people. Just under half of these (44%) are struggling to balance their work and caring responsibilities. Meanwhile, the caring duties of 700,000 people (28%) equate to a second full-time job, in addition to their full-time paid work. Who are these carers? According to Carers.org, 1 in 5 people aged between 50-64 is a carer but carers can also be young adults or even children. 58% are women.
In a pre-Coronavirus survey, nearly 70% of older carers said that being a carer had an adverse effect on their mental health Carers providing more than 50 hours of care per week were found to be twice as likely to report ill-health generally as those not providing care. Furthermore, carers providing high levels of care were associated with a 23% higher risk of stroke.
Inevitably, the pandemic has only made the carer’s juggling act harder and has contributed to people reducing their working hours or refusing promotions because of their caring responsibilities. Since more women are carers, this does nothing to help gender equality in the workplace. Of 970 carers surveyed in the new CIPD report, only 11% said their caring duties did not affect their stress or anxiety levels at work. Sadly, over a quarter hadn’t told anyone at work about their caring duties and over a third said this was because they didn’t believe anything would change if they did.
It would be wonderful if the pandemic could be a catalyst for change. On an individual level we have all become more aware of the importance of our health and wellbeing over the last few months and this is the time for employers to recognise their duty of care towards their carer employees. If they don’t, quite simply, they will lose out financially. Hours of productivity are lost every year due to lack of recognition, burnout and low wellbeing and none of this helps the bottom line.
As such, the CIPD has drawn up a list of helpful recommendations for employers as follows:
Parental Choice can certainly help out with that last point. Last year we were delighted to introduce our eldercare services to complement our childcare services. By providing an overview of available care options, as well as sourcing care homes, we can now cater to members of the sandwich generation, ie those caring for children and elderly/vulnerable relatives at the same time.
In our view, carers of all types fulfil a crucial moral function in our society that should be recognised appropriately. Unpaid work is too often undervalued but in fact these unpaid ‘second jobs’ indirectly support our economy. What chance for the future if our children aren’t cared for and educated properly? And think of the additional burden on the NHS and other services without the hours of unpaid care provided by relatives and friends. Society would grind to a halt without its carers and we will continue to champion their needs and develop our services in support of their important work.
Parental Choice helps working families with advice on childcare and eldercare, alongside their childcare search services and sourcing residential care homes for the elderly.
For advice on care for the elderly get in touch or see our useful resources.
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