Supporting working carers not only boosts employee wellbeing but it can raise productivity too, says David Capper, executive director of Westfield Health
The Sandwich Generation is defined as those people – typically in their thirties and forties – who care for ageing parents while also supporting their own children.
This responsibility can be a cause of stress, and as a result may affect performance in the workplace.
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.
Empowering working carers
Recent research carried out by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) and Westfield Health showed that just 34 per cent of employers have a formal written or informal verbal policy in place to support working carers in the workplace. Estimates suggest that three in five people will, at some point in their lives, take on a caring role for a family member or friend.
With just 13 per cent of employers offering line manager training to support working carers, it suggests that little action is being taken to accommodate those with caring responsibilities at any level.
The research also showed that 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.
The problem may not sit entirely with the employer, though. As Claire McCartney, research adviser, resourcing and talent planning, at the CIPD, comments: “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 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.
“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.”
There is evidence that by providing support for working carers, employers can recognise benefits. The survey found that of those organisations that do support working carers almost half (45 per cent) think the steps they have taken have made a positive difference to their organisation’s culture.
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 boosts employee morale/engagement (58 per cent); increases retention (53 per cent); and reduces absenteeism (50 per cent).
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.
In association with Westfield Health, the IoD provides members with access to exclusive health cash plans and health-related resources. To find out more, please call +44 (0) 114 250 2385 or visit iod.com/health plan