On average, about one in eight of your employees or team members is likely to be an unpaid carer. So how can workplaces support this large number of people, who are often effectively working two jobs ¬– one that they're paid for, and another that they do out of love for a family member, partner or friend?
How caring can affect work
There are more than four million carers of working age in the UK.1 These are people who very often work during the day, before spending much of their free time looking after an unwell or vulnerable loved one. Some balance looking after an older relative with taking care of their children – a group of the population sometimes referred to as 'sandwich carers'.
Carers may struggle to balance their work and caring roles. One in every five carers gives up their job in order to look after their loved one full-time.1 Welfare benefits are available from the government to support carers, but this is obviously no substitute for a salary and financial difficulties are common.
As well as the financial strain of caring, it can also be physically exhausting and emotionally draining. Carers who spend more than 50 hours a week looking after someone may be twice as likely to become ill as people without this responsibility.1
How employers can help carers
Ideally your organisation should include support for carers within relevant HR policies. This could include carers leave and time off for appointments (which may be paid or unpaid).2 On top of this, if you know there are multiple carers at your workplace, you might facilitate a support group or support network between those employees.2
Flexible working arrangements can be hugely helpful to carers and allow them to balance their responsibilities inside and outside of work.3
Charities that you could direct carers to for support include Carers UK and Carers Trust. Both of these organisations also have details that you, as a manager or employer, may find useful in understanding your legal obligations towards carers. Carers have certain rights at work including the right to be protected against discrimination and harassment.4
The benefits for companies of supporting carers
As the population ages and the number of carers in the UK increases, it's particularly important that the needs of this growing group aren't neglected by employers.1
By supporting carers at work, you'll not only be doing the right thing and helping them. You may also help to improve their job performance too.3 They may have greater commitment to the company, and be more inclined to stay in their role for longer.3 As more and more people become carers, going above and beyond to support people in this situation can put your organisation at an advantage, as well as supporting the wider UK economy.5