Employers are being urged to put processes in place to assist working carers, as research reveals that only one-third (34%) have either a formal or informal policy to support them.
National charity Carers UK states that three in five people will, at some point in their lives, have to care for a friend or family member.
It is therefore of some concern that research found almost two-fifths (38%) of employers do not have a policy in place to support working carers, or any plans to develop one.
Implementing a carers policy
The report Creating an enabling future for carers in the workplace from the CIPD and Westfield Health also observed that just 13% of organisations offer line manager training to support working carers. This is worrying because of the key role played by line managers in providing flexibility and support to those with caring responsibilities.
The problem is particularly prevalent in the private sector, where just 11% of organisations offer line manager training, 18% have a formal, written policy aimed at supporting working carers, and only 20% know how many working carers they employ.
Claire McCartney, research adviser for talent planning at the CIPD, commented: “Caring is such a broad term, and there are often blurry lines between those who view themselves as carers and those who see themselves as simply doing their duty.
“Some might not declare themselves as carers at work because they are worried about being treated differently, or they might be concerned that reducing their hours or asking for flexible working could impact negatively on their career progression.
“The onus is on employers to create and promote policies and initiatives in the workplace that empower working carers, sending employees a clear message that their organisation will support them.”
The research also found that, of the organisations that do support working carers, almost half (45%) think the steps they have taken have made a positive difference to their organisation’s culture.
The five top reasons given for organisations providing support for carers at work, and potential benefits of doing so, include:
- it is the right thing to do as a good employer (65%);
- it improves work-life balance (60%);
- it improves employee morale/engagement (58%);
- it improves retention (53%); and
- it reduces absenteeism (50%).
When working carers were asked what approach they would prefer if their organisation took steps to support them at work, 62% voted for minimal involvement in their personal lives, in which employees with caring responsibilities are empowered and given permission to respond as they need.
Katherine Wilson, strategic lead at Employers for Carers, added: “We warmly welcome this new research, which shines a fresh light on the increasingly critical issue of recognising and supporting carers in the workplace. With one in nine people in any workplace already caring, and this number set to increase as our population (and workforce) ages, this is a timely addition to the evidence base on supporting carers at work.”
Working carers should:
- Help their organisation understand their individual needs. Rather than waiting for official policies to be put in place, they should have open conversations with an HR professional or line manager, about the changes that will help the most.
- Assess their working situation on a regular basis and communicate any difficulties.
- Help to raise awareness of working carers and act as a role model for others.
- Create and promote a broad working carers’ policy covering the organisational support available to carers, to help create and nurture a culture that is inclusive and supportive of working carers.
- Develop and implement the right tools and support to empower working carers.
The Government should:
- Act as an enabler, encouraging wider debate and more actively promoting the business case among employers.
- Develop a stronger evidence base and act as a repository of good case studies, showcasing how employers can accommodate working carers.
- Provide more concerted action, in collaboration with business and employee bodies, to encourage more active promotion of flexible working by employers to their workforce.
Source: Creating an enabling future for carers in the workplace, CIPD/Westfield Health.