Every year in the UK, 2 million people in employment give up work entirely, for a period of time, to provide care for a dependent.
What is an Employee Carer?
If a person working for your business also spends 24 hours per week or more caring for a dependent, they’re an employee carer.
Whilst you could argue that any working parent would fit into this category, the term ‘carer’ is reserved for those who look after a family member or friend who requires help due to illness or disability or simply needs additional support due to their age.
How Many People are Employee Carers?
The ONS Consensus for 2011 reported 3 million employee caregivers in the UK. Considering that the UK employment figure currently stands at 32.8 million, employee caregivers comprise just over 9% of the working population.
Overall, the number of UK caregivers is rising, and there are several reasons why including:
- Restrictions imposed during the pandemic
- Limitations on the support available, post-pandemic
- Increase in the cost of care facilities
- Financial implications of the cost-of-living crisis.
A Which report from 2021 highlighted the year-on-year percentage increase in the cost of care and nursing homes. Those with elderly relatives that require daily help face tough decisions – financially and emotionally - with many choosing to take on the role of carer.
The Impact on Employers
All employees have the right to take time off to deal with an emergency that may arise with a dependent, which in this case does include children and partners. Your employees are people first, and there are times when life must take priority.
Whilst employers will understand this since you, too, are human, it can be tricky for a business to manage since there are no legal limits on how much time can be taken off. Whilst UK law states that the time taken off should be ‘reasonable’, each situation is unique.
In this case, the law protects the business because it’s within its discretion to set contractual terms, and there is no legal requirement to offer paid leave under these circumstances.
The Benefits Of Retaining Employee Carers
Let’s reiterate a point we’ve already made: your employees are people.
We can never know what life will throw at us, and even your most driven, highest-performing people can face life-changing circumstances that may lead to them taking on the role of carer.
That person may need time to adjust to their new responsibilities, and whilst some may re-evaluate life and even take time out, the ambitions of others will stay the same.
This isn’t talent you’ll want to lose.
Employee caregivers still have career ambitions, personal goals to fulfil and a household to support financially. Furthermore, their job and colleagues can be the sense of normalcy they need.
For many people, their job is a large part of their identity.
Let’s also time a few moments to consider the qualities that a caregiver needs:
These are qualities you’ll find in some of your best managers and team players.
Supporting Employee Carers
Whilst there may be some cost to organisations with employee caregivers taking additional leave of absence, recruiting new people is also expensive. Situations change and supporting employee carers is not only the right decision to make on a human level but also makes business sense.
It shows your people and clients that your company cares and returns your employees’ loyalty. This won’t go unnoticed by the rest of your workforce.
1. Offer Flexibility
Employers must assess every request for flexible working and fairly review each case. However, requests from those needing to provide care ought to pass through without objection.
As the word suggests, there’s no fixed way to offer flexible working, and it can look different from one person to the next. Applications for flexible working may include location, compressed hours, job sharing, and more.
Don’t forget that your employee caregivers still need their full salary. In fact, they may need it more than before, so simply reducing hours may not be the best solution for them.
Likewise, hybrid working may be preferred to 100% remote, as it will give your employee a chance to take themselves away from the caregiving environment and engage with their teams and managers.
2. Protect their Mental Wellbeing
Whether an employee is a long-term carer or it’s a change to their circumstances, they’re dealing with a mentally and emotionally challenging situation.
An Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) is essential for the wellbeing of all employees, but for those that double as carers, it could be a lifeline. In our recent Podcast, Mental Health First Aider, Debbie Evans, explained that one of the standout features of our EAP is that you have access to BCAP-accredited counsellors at the touch of a button.
3. Provide Financial Support
Due to the cost-of-living crisis, the monthly wage isn’t stretching as far as it once did. Employee carers may feel the pinch more than others, especially if care is being provided in their home or they are paying for additional external support.
Our employee cashback card can benefit an employee’s entire household, allowing them to earn up to 15% cashback every time they spend with participating retailers. It’s a cost-effective employee benefit that comes at a small price to your business but significantly impacts your people.
Open the door to even more potential savings by embedding employee discounts into your benefits offering, and your people will have access to discounted vouchers with their favourite high street and high-end retailers.
Support & Retain Your Employee Carers with Sodexo Engage
You can apply everything we’ve said in this blog to your entire workforce. Taking care of your people's mental, physical, and financial wellbeing has never been more critical.
However, juggling the responsibility of caring for a loved one and earning a wage to support your family is exceptionally demanding, and additional empathy and support are needed.
Sodexo Engage has been supporting employers for over 60 years, and we continue to make it our mission to help you help your people succeed. Contact an employee wellbeing expert today for more information.