Keep carers keen or risk losing top talent

UK
employers have been urged to address the needs of carers or risk losing armies
of skilled workers.

As
the average age of the UK’s
working population rises, key staff are being forced to leave organisations to
take up full-time caring roles, or are
having
to combine work and care – often with little employer and
government support, experts warn.

Imelda
Redmond, chief executive of Carers UK, told a fringe meeting at last week’s
Labour Party Conference in Brighton
that if business fails to ignore carers, they would "end up in a crisis
and not be fit for the future".

Those
who care for ageing, ill or disabled relatives currently make up over 12 per
cent of the total UK
workforce.

Redmond
said carers were critical to the UK as the population ages, hospitals discharge
patients more quickly, the focus is increasingly on care in the community,
residential homes close and the number of social workers dwindle.

She
said school leavers would only fill a quarter of the predicted two million extra
workers that will be required over the next 20 years. Employers need to widen
their recruitment net and are currently losing highly-skilled people who are
unable to balance work with caring responsibilities.

Jacqui
Smith, minister for industry and regions, said the Government saw carers as a
priority, and they should at least be included in the right to request flexible
working.

However,
she put the onus on employers and said they needed to show best practice in
allowing workers employment breaks, shared job schemes, home working and phone
calls home to accommodate carers. "This is not about major upheavals for
employers; its about putting
yourself in the position of the carer and finding solutions," she said.

Kate
Groucutt, CBI policy
adviser on employment added: "Employers already support employees by
offering flexible working. However the Government and the voluntary sector have
a big role to play in providing alternative support services and financial
assistance."

Tell
us about your initiatives to support employees who are carers. E-mail
daniel.thomas@rbi.co.uk

Key statistics


Three million carers already combine work and care


Six out of 10 carers have given up paid work to care, yet one in three carers
wants to work


Three in five people will become carers at some point in time


The peak age for caring is 45-64


A survey, sponsored by BT, found that 43 per cent of carers at work experienced
tiredness and 50 per cent experienced stress


Seven out of 10 carers found themselves
financially worse off


Every year 2.3 million carers stop caring and need help to get back to
employment. 

What Carers UK wants

  Employers to support carers


An extension of the right to request flexible working to carers

  Increased awareness of carers’ existing
rights to time off


A carer’s tax credit to remove barriers that prevent carers from combining work
and care


Support to help carers back to work if they wish through JobCentre Plus and tailored work programmes.


Ensuring future legislation combating age discrimination includes carers and
focuses on the benefits of helping carers back to work 


Greater accessibility to life-long learning and training programmes for carers


Adequate income if a carer is unable to work

By Penny Wilson

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