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The annual survey report from the CIPD on absence management has been released.

The headline is that absence is down a bit. From 7.6 days per employee in 2013 to 6.6 days in 2014. Other than that, there isn’t much new. Public sector absence is still a bit higher than private sector. Stress and mental health related absence is still trending high. So is presenteeism. Line managers are still seen as having a key role in reducing absence. The humble return to work interview still reigns. More organisations are getting into proactive wellbeing stuff. Pretty much everyone has an absence policy.

So far so standard. Let’s face it. As people stuff goes, absence management isn’t the sexiest of subjects.

But there was one thing that was a little new. The impact of caring responsibilities on absence from work. Nearly a third of employers have said that it has made an impact on absence, and believe that this is going to increase in the future.

I’d say that is a big fat certainty.

We have an ageing population. More than 15 million people in the UK currently have a long term health condition. Conditions like diabetes, dementia and heart disease are rising, fast. There are currently over six million carers in the UK, a figure that is expected to increase to 9 million by 2037. Every single day 6000 people take on a caring responsibility. At some point in our lives, three in five of us will be a carer. There is a tipping point coming; where there are more people that need care than there are to provide it, and it is not all that far away.

There is no question that this is going to have a significant impact in the workplace and the people that work for us.

Absence from work due to caring responsibilities is just part of it. Many carers say that they have missed out on opportunities at work due to their responsibilities. Often, carers take a reduced income in order to be able to provide care; some have to give up work altogether, meaning vital skills are leaving the labour market. Carers are also at risk themselves of developing stress related conditions as a result of caring. The number one thing that carers need and value from their employer? Flexible working.

The employee benefits industry are waking up to these issues. Eldercare is now one of the fastest growing flexible benefit offerings.

This is an future challenge that doesn’t seem yet to have broken through into the mainstream conscious. But HR most definitely needs to prepare for the caring explosion that is on the horizon.

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