Some carers work. Some carers work for an employer. And many carers either need to or want to keep working. Yet many carers (40% in the USA for example, World Dementia Report 2018) say they have no choice but to give up work. 1 in 6 even feel penalised for their caregiving duties. While governments wrestle with the social and fiscal consequences of our increased longevity, could businesses help?
Enterprises can drive positive change. And I don’t ‘just’ mean the energetic pharma, tech and service providers who are innovating in the health and care sectors (keep going). Enlightened leaders in every business can support employees who have caring responsibilities. By, for example, introducing flexible or remote working where possible. Especially post covid. Rewarding employees for their value generated or output is smarter than simply monitoring their quantity of presenteeism.
Work places already support new parents in their transition to a new, socially critical role. What if enterprises supported new carers too? Transparent, reasonable policies would help carers and their peers alike. In return, more employees would be happier and more committed. The fear of reprisal or potential resentment would reduce and enterprises would benefit from retaining skilled employees.
A rethink of company policy may also help stem national social and health service bankruptcy. Estimates have put the annual total value of the ‘informal’/unpaid care given by UK family caregivers equivalent to or exceeding that of the total annual cost of running the NHS. We need carers to keep giving care or the reported healthcare and care ‘crisis’ will worsen. Many carers need their employment income to do this. The mental health ‘nourishment’ from the purpose and relationships forged at work is important too.
“Growing numbers of employers want to talk about how they support parents at work, but not enough are helping staff combine work with caring for older relatives” said James Kirkup, director at the Social Market Foundation 16 July 2018, in Family carers propping up the care system – and paying the price.
So, business leaders, you can support your working carers right now. Sensitively establish how you can support the carers in your teams. There is likely to be at least one in a team of 7 (Carers UK, Juggling Work and Unpaid Care Report, 2019). Some creative thinking, small adjustments (on both sides) and great team-ship could make a big difference to many lives.
I joined Radio 4’s ‘You and Yours’ broadcast on Friday 29 March to contribute my experience in their segment on balancing work and care. ‘Listen again’ if you can squeeze it into your day.