More employees ‘taking time off to care for children or elderly relatives’

More people are taking time off because they are struggling to juggle their jobs with childcare or caring for elderly relatives, according to a survey out on Monday which will stimulate the debate about working hours and flexible working.

More than one in three employers report that absenteeism has increased because workers need time for caring responsibilities, according to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development and Simplyhealth. However, overall absence levels have dropped by a whole day to 6.6 days a year – 7.9 in the public sector and 5.5 in the private sector – although this is partly because more people are struggling into work while sick.

Emily Holzhausen, director of policy at Carers UK, said 3 million people are juggling work with caring for an older or disabled loved one. She estimates this costs businesses £3.5bn a year, with extra costs to the economy and to the families themselves in lost earnings and pensions.

Just one in six organisations have policies in place to help staff with their caring responsibilities on top of their jobs. The CIPD is calling on more businesses to adopt a formal policy to support workers, and ultimately benefit business.

Jill Miller, CIPD research adviser, said: “With the sandwich generation, people have children later, and are looking after their young family as well as looking after elderly relatives or friends in the ageing babyboomer generation. That does take its toll on people. But there are some simple things employers can do. If you do allow people to work more flexibly, you can hang on to talent.”

Flexible working arrangements are by far the most common type of support (68%), followed by compassionate leave (53%) and paid or unpaid carers’ leave (48%). Just over two-fifths (42%) of employers offer access to counselling services and three in 10 offer career breaks and sabbaticals. One in six organisations offer access to financial services (17%) or options to purchase additional annual leave days (15%). Although only one in six employers say they have organisation-wide policies or guidelines in place for carers, an additional two-fifths say they do offer support to individuals on an ad hoc basis. “Recent research has predicted that there will be four generations working side-by-side by 2030. With this 4G UK workforce, employers are having to manage an increasingly diverse range of employee needs … It’s proven that flexible working can improve engagement and productivity within the workforce,” Miller said.

A third of employers reported “presenteeism”. Stress and mental health problems in the workplace also remain high, with more than 40% of employers citing an increase, despite signs of economic recovery.

Under new legislation, all employees have the right to request to work flexibly.

Find us

Southwark Carers
3rd Floor, Walworth Methodist Church,
54 Camberwell Road, London, SE5 0EW
View map and directions

Contact us

020 7708 4497

Find us

Nearest tube: Elephant & Castle underground station (Northern and Bakerloo lines).

Nearest Railway Station: Elephant & Castle

Buses from Elephant and Castle: ask bus driver for Burgess Park. Bus numbers: 12, 171, 148, 176, 68, 484, 42, 40, 45