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Supporting employees who are carers

Employers for Carers and Women’s Business Council encourage more flexible working to support carers in employment. Reacting to new research produced by Carers Week*, Employers for Carers today joined forces with the Women’s Business Council to encourage more flexible working to support people with unpaid caring responsibilities for older, disabled or ill relatives and friends. 

There are around three million people in the UK combining work and care. Women are more likely to be working part-time compared with men and more likely to end up caring during their working lives, affecting career prospects, lifetime earnings and pensions. The new research for Carers Week looks at how well carers feel supported by their health and care services, high streets and employers. The research reveals the impact of juggling care with working in a work place that is not carer-friendly** highlighting the key role that employers can play in supporting the carers in their workforce. Of women with experience of working who identified the workplace as the worst service for recognising and supporting them in their caring role:

· 76 percent said it made it more difficult to work alongside caring

· 75 percent said it had a negative impact on their health

· 57 percent said it has a financial impact of them – costing them money or losing them income

· 51 percent said it made it more difficult to look after the person they care for

However, significant numbers of women (56 percent) currently juggling work and care said that employers were very or quite carer-friendly. Where employers are supportive, this can make a real difference to the ability of employees to care for loved ones at the same time as remaining in work. Employers for Carers, an employer forum supported by Carers UK, has led the drive to spread best practice for employers in supporting carers and create the conditions for employees to care alongside work since it was first established in 2009. It recognised that employees with caring responsibilities were exiting the labour market prematurely and also had increased ill-health and absence whilst at work. Independent research also shows that, if this is not addressed, it can lead to increased business costs and lost skills – a growing concern in an increasingly competitive skills market.

Ian Peters, Director, Customer Facing Strategy at Centrica, parent company of British Gas, and Chair of Employers for Carers, said:“As well as supporting our employees who are caring for their family members and close friends we know at British Gas that addressing the caring challenge makes good business sense. Retaining scarce skills in the workplace when employees have caring responsibilities is increasingly important, particularly for an organisation like ours. If you have the right approach to empathy, flexibility and provision of advice this will mean a win-win all round – more retention, less absence, high commitment levels and improved performance.

Sue Langley OBE, CEO of UK Financial Services Organisation, UKTI, and founding member of the Women’s Business Council said:“Women are far more likely to have caring responsibilities during their working lives. It is vital, not only for their health and well-being, but also for their career potential, that we support them in their dual role. The real bonus demonstrated by employers is that this has a clear positive impact on the bottom line. Supporting carers is good for business.

“The recommendations the Women’s Business Council made in 2012 contain simple but compelling steps on how organisations can support and get the most out of their carer employees, which if taken up will make a real difference. I urge all businesses, across all sectors, to get on board and make out recommendations part of their organisation’s culture.”

Ian Peters adds:“There is no doubt that business and employers can play their part to help build carer friendly communities. I’m delighted that Employers for Carers is part of Carers Week and I hope that other companies will be inspired to join us. We have an increasing membership across retail, banking and public services which demonstrates the growing importance of the issue. We are all learning from each other about how to do this as we go forward.” Carers Week has launched a new Carers Checklist ( which lists simple things that carers say are important in making their community carer-friendly. The Checklist has a section on what employers can do to better support carers in their workforce, which includes: My line manager makes it easy for me to talk about my caring responsibilities at work and ask for support if I need it.

My employer has policies in place to support me as a carer, such as care leave, flexible working policies, a carers’ staff network or an employee assistance programme. My employer tells me about my rights, including my right to request flexible working and take emergency time off to care for dependents when I need it.

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