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Employers failing to support growing number of carer employees

Employers are failing to support employees with caring responsibilities, although the public sector is significantly better than the private or voluntary, according to a new report.

The report, from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), found that 52% of public sector employers had a formal, written policy aimed at carers, and only 11% had no plans to implement such a policy. In contrast, just 18% of private sector employers and 26% of voluntary sector employers had a policy.

However, the report warned that all employers need to do more to accommodate the growing numbers of carer employees.

It is now estimated that three in five people will have to care for someone at some point in their lives, and an ageing population means more people are likely to find themselves in a ‘sandwich generation’, with caring responsibilities for both children and ageing parents.

Claire McCartney, research advisor for resourcing and talent planning at the CIPD, said: “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.”

She warned that employers needed to train line managers in better dealing with carer employees and measure the exact numbers of carers in the workplace, since some employees might not ask for special support out of fear it would have a negative impact on their career.

The CIPD report says that lack of support may lead to carer employees being unable to advance in their career, because they are perceived as unreliable, or being unable to perform as well as they could at work because of tiredness.

The report also found that 63% of public sector employers provided carer employers with flexible leave arrangements and 68% provide them with flexible working arrangements beyond statutory requirements.

The CIPD also questioned carer employees about what approach they wanted their employers to take, and found that 62% said they wanted their employer to encourage them to state their needs without involvement in their personal lives. Just 18% said they preferred a ‘hands on’ approach.

McCartney added: “Employers need to see working carers as an opportunity, rather than a challenge, and listening and understanding what they need from their employer is important.

“Although official policies for working carers will help to legitimise their place in the labour market, they need not be prescriptive and should focus on empowering individuals.”

The report also said that the government should provide more concentrated action, in partnership with business and employee bodies, to promote support for carer employees.

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