Andrew Smith: Eldercare responsibilities within the workforce – time to introduce an employee benefit?
The UK’s ageing population is increasing. And with more people living well into their 80s, we employers are experiencing a steady rise in the number employees juggling work with caring for an elderly loved one.
It makes perfect sense that we should provide additional support for those facing extra challenges at home – particularly if we are to retain the very best talent.
Many businesses are turning to new and innovative ways to help out. For those with youngsters at home, childcare vouchers and nurseries are now commonplace among many organisations – but what about eldercare provision?
Elderly relatives demand more of our time nowadays. For those preparing for a challenging day in the office, knowing that mum or dad will be left to fend for themselves, possibly on a trip to the doctors of hospital, can be incredibly stressful.
How will they manage without someone there to keep a close eye on them? It’s an anxious prospect for even the most level-headed of employees.
We, as employers and HR professionals, are fully aware of this. We know we have employees doing their utmost to make it into work and look like nothing’s amiss. So, what can we do to support them at a time when they need it most?
For those whose elderly parent or parents can no longer cope independently in their own home, talking things through with colleagues or managers at work is tough. It’s not something we like to think about. Many avoid it if they can. So planning for this kind of situation is quite rare.
Asking for time off in an emergency is difficult and awkward too. Many feel they could be dispensable and are wary of showing any signs of weakness. We all know that our businesses need these workers the most. They’re good at juggling, determined to meet their obligations, both at work and at home. And they don’t give up easily.
So how, as employers, do you offer help to those who don’t ask for it? Communication is key. The culture of our organisation dictates the way we all think. Just twenty years ago, the concept of childcare was viewed as an irritation by many – particularly for those without children. Now, it is an accepted – nay demanded – part of any UK human resources policy.
Anyone applying for a job will know whether their prospective employer offers childcare. It is practically thrown at them as a positive benefit. They’ll be able to come into work and drop their offspring into a purpose-built on-site nursery, not 100 metres from their desks. Who could refuse a job within a company that offers that? It provides them with reassurance that their new bosses will care and support them – and that nothing is too much trouble. Childcare provision ranks alongside pay and leave when it comes to choosing who to work for.
Now it’s time to do the same with eldercare.
Business leaders don’t look after their employees’ children whilst they are at work. They call on the experience and expertise of fully qualified and regulated childminders to do the job for them. And there are similar schemes in place for eldercare.
It is possible to introduce eldercare as an employee benefit – giving workers access to helplines and specialists who can advise on, and manage the needs of, elderly relatives. These schemes are comprehensive and look after everything – from talking through the possibility of extra care at home, to discussing the stressful fact that parents can no longer cope independently and may need to move into residential care.
Eldercare services also provide access to qualified financial advisors, specialising in care fees planning and the financial affairs of older people as well as hands on support when dealing with property and personal possessions. And solicitors for the elderly stand by to ensure all legal safeguards are met.
When the recruitment advert goes in. Highlight the fact that you offer eldercare as a specific business benefit. Make sure it’s right up there with the other sought-after extras. Your candidates need to understand how important it is to you that they feel fully supported and looked after.
You want the best talent and you want them to feel they can focus fully on the task at hand when they’re with you.
Often, it’s colleagues who notice something isn’t quite right. More times than not, they’re aware of those around them who are in the midst of looking after ill or infirm relatives – even when those people are doing their best to hide it. So they are in a prime position to help. If they’re aware of the support available, they’ll act as the perfect advert.
Making sure everyone within your organisation – not just those you suspect need help – know about what’s on offer is crucial. Educate, not only your managers but your entire staff about how you have made the effort to source and implement eldercare as part of your HR offering.
Eventually, not too far in the distant future, we’ll treat eldercare as a run of the mill benefit. It won’t be unique or special – but it will be an incredibly valuable approach to sourcing and then retaining the very best available talent.