New research has revealed the mental, physical and professional strain that juggling a job with caring for an elderly relative is having on the UK’s workforce.
The ‘Invisible Carers’ research of over 2,000 working carers shows that less than a quarter of those caring for an elderly relative outside of work receive ongoing support from their employer – with a majority finding that support is only given during an emergency situation (47 per cent) or none at all (29 per cent).
As a result, many are now balancing caring duties alongside their careers – 50 per cent have checked-in with an elderly relative over the phone, 46 per cent have received distressing calls from their relative and 40 per cent have taken calls from a concerned carer or family member, all during working hours.
A huge number of respondents are acting as a carer for a parent or grandparent on a daily or weekly basis (85 per cent), and a similar number considering themselves the first response should something happen to the relative they care for (82 per cent ).
The impact this is having is clear. 27 per cent have taken up to a week of annual leave, almost a fifth (18 per cent) have used their personal days (e.g. bereavement leave) and a further third have considered asking their employer to work flexibly
Sue Hawksworth, Director of Eldercare, comments:
“Working carers in the UK are facing an uphill battle. Employers often take little issue if a parent has to leave work to attend to a sick child, yet there is a stigma attached to caring for the elderly which is a difficult hurdle to overcome for many employees who care for an elderly family member.”
Having a skewed work/care balance is also having a detrimental impact on the physical and mental health of these working carers.
45 per cent said they feel more tired than they used to, 44 per cent said they feel frequently more stressed at work and 20 per cent say their personal relationships have suffered.
This is further exacerbated by the fact that 44 per cent of active carers don’t consider themselves to be “carers”, despite having clear caring responsibilities such as checking in with their elderly family members in person (71 per cent) or over the phone (65 per cent), as well as duties like reminding them to take medication (41 per cent).
“Many people don’t think about themselves as ‘carers’ because they consider these duties as part of family life, when in reality they are undertaking at least a part-time carer role alongside their day-to-day job. Employers must recognise the value in keeping these members of staff feeling supported, appreciated and motivated to work, safe in the knowledge that they are able to care for their relatives – whatever their age – when necessary.”
Rebecca joined the HRreview editorial team in January 2016. After graduating from the University of Sheffield Hallam in 2013 with a BA in English Literature, Rebecca has spent five years working in print and online journalism in Manchester and London. In the past she has been part of the editorial teams at Sleeper and Dezeen and has founded her own arts collective.