Carers: A hidden (& growing) issue….

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Last month we published the 2017 edition of the Jelf Employee Benefits Survey.  As ever, the document covered a vast range of hot topics from within the Employee Benefits arena, yet we also shed light on some less well-known – but equally important – subjects as well.

One such topic was the role of carers in the workplace.  We looked at this topic on the blog last year (please see this link) when we highlighted the challenges for those individuals who hold down paid employment at the same time as acting as a carer for an ill or elderly relative or friend.  This grouping face many of the same problems as working parents, including not being able to pursue career progression, potential damage to the quality of their work, and in extreme cases even being forced to reduce hours or leave the workplace altogether.

Any or all of the above outcomes are of course potentially damaging to the employee and his/her family finances, but equally should be of concern to employers as this could damage both employee engagement and productivity (both of key importance as the UK heads towards an exit from the European Union).  Given this it would be expected that employers are looking to help working carers wherever they can.

Yet the 2017 Jelf Employee Benefits survey highlights that the issue of working carers is a hidden one for many private, public and third sector organisations.  Just 13% of employers believed that they are aware of all employees who double as carers in their non-work time.  It is therefore apparent that this important working demographic is currently operating below the radar of most employers.

Some employers may argue that these findings may just reflect the lack of such carers in the workplace.  Yet a Government document* issued last autumn estimated that as many as 3 million people combine paid work with providing informal care to family and friends.  So that is just under 1 in 10 of the UK working population.  This clearly suggests that working carers are present in many more organisations than our survey result indicated, or employers appreciate.

This issue is also likely to be a growing one.

The more obvious part of this statement is the well-documented increase in life expectancy in the UK.  It follows that a greater number of elderly people are likely to need some care assistance in the years to come.

Yet there is more to it than that. As we have covered many times both here and at our seminars, the UK workforce is currently in the midst of a major demographic change.  It is expected that almost 1 in 3 workers will be aged between 50 and State Pension Age by the start of the next decade.  This important statistic dovetails with another fact arising from the Department of Health’s Chief Medical officer last year, which indicated that the prevalence of caring for others peaks between the ages of 50 and 64.  So it seems likely that many more older employees will be seeking to balance work and carer duties in the decades to come.

All of this points to a growing issue for employees and employers alike.  Obviously there are some Employee Benefits that can assist working carers – but to target these effectively it will be vital that employers understand which of their workers need such support.  So we would urge many more employers to lift the lid on this hidden workforce demographic during 2017.

For more information on the above, or benefits that may help working carers, please speak to your usual Jelf Consultant in the first instance.

Best regards

Steve

*DWP “Improving Lives” Green Paper October 2016

Wellbeing at WorkInternationalProtection/RiskWorkplace Pensions and SavingsWorkplace Benefits Platform

 

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About the author

Steve Herbert is an award-winning thought leader on Pensions and Employee Benefit issues. His principal aim is better communicating the value and usage of employee benefits to employers. This he has achieved through many (highly successful) seminar series over the last decade, and his regular and widely read blog posts on the subject.
He also acts as a judge in HR and Employee Benefits industry awards, article writer, and product innovator. Steve is a regular contributor to DWP forums and compulsive responder to formal Government Consultations on pension and employee benefit issues. He is occasionally accused of making employee benefits interesting.