Only a third of employers are supporting working carers

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Just a third of employers (34%) have a formal written policy or an informal verbal policy in place to support working carers, according to a new survey published today. With estimates suggesting that three in five people will end up caring for someone at some point in their lives, employers are being urged to put mechanisms in place to empower and support working carers before they lose out on key talent.

This is according to new CIPD/Westfield Health research, which finds that almost two-fifths (38%) of employers do not have any policies in place to support working carers, or plans to develop one. The report also finds that just 13% of organisations offer line manager training to support working carers, which is concerning given the key role line managers play in providing flexibility and support to people 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 one in five (20%) know how many working carers they employ.

Claire McCartney, Research Adviser – Resourcing and Talent Planning at the CIPD comments: “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. As long as the caring agenda remains a hidden issue in the workplace, without clear policies or obvious channels for support, can you blame them?”

The survey found that, of those 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. This figure rises to 66% of organisations that have a policy in place geared towards the needs of carers. The five top reasons organisations support carers at work are: it’s 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 reduces absenteeism (50%).

When working carers were asked which 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. Just 18% said they’d prefer a hand-holding response where their organisation was highly engaged in working carers. 11% voted for neither and 10% said they didn’t know.

The CIPD/Westfield Health survey makes recommendations for:

Working carers:

  • Help your organisation to understand your individual needs and how to help you – rather than waiting for official policies to be put in place, have open conversations with an HR professional or your line manager about the changes that will help you the most.
  • Assess your working situation on a regular basis and communicate any arising difficulties.
  • Help to raise awareness of working carers and act as a role model for others.

Employers:

  • 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, including:
    • Active promotion of a flexible working policy that is responsive to the needs of people with caring responsibilities.
    • Attractive working situations that take into account people’s caring responsibilities and enable them to stay in work.
    • Guidance and/or a section of the intranet where working carers can be signposted to external sources of support, including financial information.
    • Train line managers so that they understand the demands that working carers experience and are aware of the support available to them.

UK Government:

  • Act as an enabler, encouraging wider debate and more actively promoting the business case among employers so that they act more urgently.
  • Develop a stronger evidence base and act as a repository of good practice 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.
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    AUTHOR

    Molly Dyson

    Former Editor – PA Life

    All stories by: Molly Dyson