Who Cares?

This is a ‘stuff I didn’t know until recently that you might not know too’ kind of blog. Earlier this year I joined a healthcare company that works closely with organisations that support carers.

Until then, what I knew about carers in the workplace was largely confined to the statutory framework. What I didn’t know was this:

• There are currently over six million carers in the UK, a figure that is expected to increase to 9 million by 2037.
• According to Carers UK, every single day 6000 people take on a caring responsibility and at some point in our lives, three in five of us will be a carer.
• There is a so-called ‘sandwich’ generation. People caring for elderly parents whilst still having children at home.
• Within just five years we will reach a critical point; there will soon be more people needing care than family members currently available to meet the demand.

Our population is ageing, and chronic health conditions are rising. All of this points to the fact that every employer is going to have many more carers working for them in the not too distant future.

More interesting stuff I didn’t know until recently:

• 34% of carers feel that they have missed out on promotion or development opportunities at work.
• 42% of carers have taken a reduced income in order to provide that care, and it is believed that around 2m people have had to give up work altogether.
• For those that do stay in work, carers have a serious risk of developing mental health conditions themselves, and an incredible 92% of carers describe themselves as feeling stressed as a result of their caring role.
(Figures from Carers UK)

It is clear that as employers we are going to start taking this issue more seriously. The Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has recently called for employers to do more, saying that those who are caring should have the same rights as those caring for young children. As far as I can see, they already do, unless you count taking maternity / paternity leave. They have the right (in the UK) to request flexible working, have that request duly considered, and only refused on specified grounds.

More legislation isn’t the answer here. You can’t force employers to allow every flexible working request they receive from carers. What we can do is work on mindsets.

The rise in carers is just one more reason why we need to get serious about flexible working. The 9-5 is dead. I am proud to say that more than 50% of my own team have flexible working arrangements of some description. And not just because they meet the statutory requirements, but because they wanted them and its fine with me.

Flexible working. Let HR lead the way.

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