More and more people are taking on caring responsibilities, but you wouldn't know it if you walked into most offices, research out today has warned.
According to a study by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) and Westfield Health, just a third (34 per cent) of employers have some sort of policy, whether verbal or written, in place to support staff who are also carers.
The problem is even more prevalent among private sector businesses, where only 18 per cent have a formal written policy in place to support working carers and just one in five (20 per cent) actually know how many people with caring responsibilities they employ.
"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," said Claire McCartney, research adviser – resourcing and talent planning at the CIPD. "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?"
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David Capper, Westfield Health’s executive director – commercial, added:
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.
Caring not only impacts heavily on employees’ working lives, particularly in terms of health and wellbeing, but can also seriously affect employers through rising levels of absence and falling levels of productivity.
With so many UK workers now facing these struggles, working carers need to be on every employer’s agenda.
In light of the research's findings, the CIPD and Westfield Health are calling on employers to formulate policies to help support working carers and on government to work towards creating a pool of case studies and best practice guidelines for how businesses can support carers.
Research released in April by She's Back and the Management Consultancies Association discovered that women who had left the consulting sector, often to take on caring duties, had on average eight years' worth of experience each, while 42 per cent said they could be coaxed back to the industry if they felt the workplace culture had become more supportive.