Making caring at work the norm, not the exception

Post author image. Angela Watson
Business in the Community’s Age Project Manager, Angela Watson, considers the current issues for working carers and how employers can best recognise and support them.

It’s Carers Week from 6 June to 12 June, and this year’s theme is ‘making caring visible, valued and supported’.

Business in the Community (BITC) actively helps business members to recognise their working carers and provide the best support for them, whether they are informal carers of adults and older people, parents or others who care for children.

BITC’s ‘Who Cares?’ research1 , undertaken with expert partners in the business and academic sectors, responded to the even greater pressures carers are experiencing in balancing work and care due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It revealed the significant difficulties faced by carers at work today and the employer best practices which work to support them.

The research highlights some of the key issues for informal working carers for sick and disabled adults and older people. It found:

  • Care is a widespread concern. Nearly half of UK workers combine work with caring, and a third of all carers provide care for a sick or disabled adult or older person.
  • There is less recognition of caring responsibilities for sick and disabled adults and older people. Respondents to our survey wanted the same status given to caring for older people as given to caring for children.
  • Difficulties combining work with care are pushing some groups down and even out of work. We found that less than half of people caring for older people feel properly supported by their employer. The majority of those caring want to share care with someone else, but this is not always possible.
  • Employees want employers to provide policies to support balancing work and care, such as flexible working and to develop a culture which supports more men to care so that caring responsibilities can be better shared. The majority of those caring for older adults are women, with more providing care alone than sharing caring responsibilities with someone else.

The cost of living crisis is putting further pressure on carers. Unpaid carers of adults are facing particular hardship as their caring role often means they face additional costs when providing care. Almost half of carers are struggling to meet regular expenses and fear further pressures will impact on their mental health2. Cutting back on other spending is a worrying risk. The gender pensions gap is already over 50% at retirement3, and if women carers cut back on pension contributions due to financial pressures, the situation can only get worse4.

Recommendations for employers

Looking at the experience and difficulties faced by carers, and the examples of employer best practice, BITC is making four key recommendations to employers to support their employee carers:

  1. Consider caring the norm, not the exception.
  2. Champion equitable access to care for all genders, men and women, in your policies.
  3. Foster a culture that supports men to care.
  4. Promote flexible working directly to men.

You can find more details on the findings of our research and our recommendations for employers in the ‘Who Cares?’ Report.


Next Steps

More details on the actions that can be taken to support informal carers at work, and the implementation of the above recommendations, are available in BITC’s toolkit Supporting Carers in the Workplace. The toolkit includes how to develop appropriate policies and practices, e.g flexible and hybrid working and how to provide training for line managers to support carers in their teams. Also included in an overview on offering carers passports and developing carers networks.

BITC members can also find more information in our factsheet Support For Every Carer At Work, which includes case studies that show how BITC members have supported their carers at work.

If you are a BITC member and would like help to support your caring workforce contact your relationship manager. If you are not already a member, find out how you can join our network.

TRANSFORM HOW YOUR ORGANISATION COMBINES WORK WITH CARING RESPONSIBILITIES

References

  1. Business in the Community (2022), Who Cares: transforming how we combine work with caring responsibilities.
  2. Carers UK (2022), Under Pressure: Caring and the cost of living crisis.
  3. Legal and General (2022), British women hit by gender pension gap at every stage of career.
  4. The Guardian (2022), Half of older women fear having to work beyond UK state pension age – study.