Just a third of employers (34 per cent) are supporting working carers and have a policy in place, according to a new survey.
Research carried out by the CIPD and Westfield Health, suggests 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.
It also found that almost two-fifths (38 per cent) of employers do not have any policies in place to support working carers, or plans to develop one.
Claire McCartney, Research Adviser for Resourcing and Talent Planning at the CIPD, said: “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 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. Measurement is key to supporting working carers – without it, employers cannot know how many working carers they have and what the most appropriate policies, tools and support might be.
Line manager training is also crucial, as they are often the first port of call for employees needing support and they need to be able to understand the context in which working carers are operating, and have the tools and the confidence to help them develop their skills and progress in their careers.”
Only 13 per cent 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.
McCartney continues: “We can see that many employers understand the business case for supporting working carers, and how it can positively impact retention, engagement and reduce absenteeism, all of which will bring big business benefits in the long term.
“Employers need to see working carers as an opportunity, rather than a challenge, and listening and understanding what they need from their employer is important.”
The problem is particularly prevalent in the private sector, where just 11 per cent of organisations offer line manager training, 18 per cent have a formal, written policy aimed at supporting working carers, and only one in five (20 per cent) know how many working carers they employ.
David Capper, Westfield Health’s Executive Director – Commercial, said: “More than three million workers in the UK are providing informal care to older parents or dependents, and this figure is expected to rise, as many more employees are likely to find themselves in the ‘sandwich generation’ – balancing working commitment with caring for older family members and looking after their own children.
“With so many UK workers now facing these struggles, working carers need to be on every employer’s agenda. It’s clear from this research that many haven’t yet fully recognised the impact of this demographic shift, but they must understand the need to address this issue and put in place mechanisms to support them.”
The survey found that the five top reasons why organisations support carers at work are: it’s the right thing to do as a good employer (65 per cent); it improves work-life balance (60 per cent); it improves employee morale/engagement (58 per cent); it improves retention (53 per cent); and reduces absenteeism (50 per cent).
Katherine Wilson, Strategic Lead, Employers for Carers, said: “As with the experience of a growing number of our member organisations, we welcome the findings today from employers who are addressing the caring agenda and seeing the positive effects on their workplace culture, retention rates and productivity. Recognising and supporting carers in the workplace is not only the right thing to do, it also makes clear business sense.”