How to support working carers as an employer

Caregiving doesn’t just mean for children.

When we talk about caregiving, we usually do so in the context of being a parent or guardian – but in doing so, we are omitting a HUGE part of the conversation!

Over 9 million employees in the UK are juggling work alongside caring for elderly, sick or disabled relatives.

Oftentimes, they do so alongside also caring for children, becoming sandwich carers for two dependents - their parents and their kids as well as holding down a full time job and trying to advance their careers.

75% of employed unpaid carers worry about how they will continue to manage to work and provide care. For some, this becomes an impossible task and so, on average, 600 people a day give up employment to provide unpaid care. 

With figures such as these, it’s evident that businesses need to not only accommodate but actively support their employees who are also carers.

What is a working carer?

To be able to understand the hardships faced by working carers and thus provide support concerning these challenges, it's useful to define what we mean by a ‘working carer’.

A working carer is an individual who is in employment but who finds their working life affected by the unpaid care they provide to a friend, family member or loved one. The person they provide care for may be older, disabled, seriously ill or unable to care for themselves for some other reason.

Each working carer’s experience is different. For some, they may be providing a few hours of care a day to someone that lives in their home. For others, they might have to travel to provide care, be available throughout the night or their carer responsibilities may ebb and flow.

The nature of the care they provide will also differ greatly and can encompass such things as personal care, administering medication, doing chores, running errands and mental health support.

Balancing work and caregiving

Why is it important to support carers in the workplace?

Balancing work and care can be incredibly difficult and for many, it means they have little time for themselves and experience a significant impact on their mental and physical health. As an employer, supporting carers has a huge range of benefits, not just for the individual employees but your business as a whole.

Supporting your unpaid carer employees effectively can reduce stress and burnout, help them feel less isolated and improve their well-being.

From a business perspective, there are many reasons for supporting unpaid carers:

  • Improved productivity
  • Lower employee turnover rate
  • Reduced hiring costs
  • Skilled employee retention
  • Improved company culture and inclusion
  • Increased ages diversity and intergenerational collaboration

Nearly half of working-aged women are providing an average of 45 hours of unpaid care per week. Of working-aged men, 25% of them provide an average of 17 hours of unpaid care per week. As women carry out more unpaid care hours than men, supporting unpaid carers can also help with closing the gender pay gap that is still prevalent in the UK.

In the current economic climate, 16% of unpaid carers are also in debt as a direct result of their caring responsibilities and a quarter of carers are cutting back on food and heating. With carefully considered support, employers can help employees with the cost of living.

Carers' rights at work

Formally recognising working carers is an important step in developing and rolling out any support. Carers should be included within an organisation’s policies and procedures, with what they are entitled to and how they can access help clearly outlined.

Employers must also make sure they are abiding by the law. Under the Equality Act, carers have the right not to be discriminated against or harassed because of their caring role or association with a disabled person.

They are also legally allowed time off to deal with an emergency involving a dependent, such as a child. In addition, where an employee has been working for an employer for 26 consecutive weeks, they have a statutory right to request flexible working arrangements.

How can employers support carers in the workplace?

There are many ways that an employer can support carers in the workplace. There are also approaches that businesses can adopt that can help carers outside of their working hours and make their life beyond the office a little bit easier.

Be understanding

Being understanding is fundamental to supporting carers in the workplace. Create a culture where carers feel comfortable talking about their circumstances and know they can reach out for support whenever it’s needed.

Allow flexible working

62% of employed unpaid carers state they would like their workplace to give them permission to provide care responsibility as and when they need to. Offering flexible working arrangements can be invaluable for working carers in being able to do this. It means that they don’t have to make the difficult decision of prioritising work or their caring responsibilities but can instead, manage both in a way that works best for them and the person they are caring for.

For example, this might mean that they work remotely some of the time so that they can look after a loved one whilst still being reachable by colleagues.

Offer paid carer’s leave

Carer’s leave allows employees to take time off work temporarily to provide full-time care. A carer can take leave for a minimum of 13 weeks up to 104 weeks. The leave is unpaid, but employers must keep the job open for when the employee returns.

For many people, taking unpaid time off is just not financially feasible, regardless of if they have someone in their life who needs care. This can leave employees in a stressful and upsetting situation. Employers can help ease this by offering carers paid leave. How an employer does this and the amount of leave they can offer will depend on many factors, but any paid time off will be welcomed.

Provide mental health support

71% of unpaid carers cite the stress of caring as one of the top challenges they face. In addition, 70% say that caring has had a negative impact on their physical and mental health.

Therefore, employee mental health support is paramount in improving the wellbeing and experiences of unpaid carers in the workforce.  There are a range of ways that an employer can do this such as providing access to counselling services, allowing employees to take mental health days, and signing up for wellbeing, mindfulness and mental health programmes or apps.

Include companiions in your employee benefits programme

Another way that employers can support unpaid carers is by providing employee benefits. Employee benefits is an umbrella term that is used to describe any extra incentives given to employers above and beyond their normal wages. These can be anything from free tea and coffee at work to comprehensive health insurance.

For unpaid carers, employee benefits that extend beyond the workplace and offer practical, emotional, and financial support are particularly invaluable as they can:

  • Provide respite care
  • Help with creating a better work-life balance
  • Reduce poor mental health, stress, and burnout
  • Lessen the financial burden of being an unpaid carer
  • Increase the amount of free time they have

In-person, on-demand benefits that support not just the employee but also their wider family can mean that some of their day-to-day responsibilities can be taken on by someone else. This gives unpaid carers the often much-needed breathing space to take a step back, rest and even do social or hobby-based activities that they have not had the time, energy, or money to do previously. 

Our companions provide such support in a variety of ways:

  • Childcare
  • Everyday assistance such as shopping and errands
  • Pet services
  • Help with household chores
  • Appointment chaperones
  • Meal prep and cooking
  • Companionship and assistance for older relatives
  • Emotional support
  • Transportation

We help employers to offer employees hands-on, as-needed support for themselves and their loved ones. Whether it’s a member of the sandwich generation who needs help with caring for ageing parents and children, or an individual with an ill spouse who needs some company, our companiions are available.

Get in touch today!