Some carers work. Some carers work for an employer. And many carers either need to or want to keep working for that employer. Yet many carers (40% in the USA for example, World Dementia Report 2018) say they have no choice but to give up work and that 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?

I believe 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. Rewarding employees for their value generated or output is smarter than simply monitoring their quantity of office hours logged.

Enterprises already support new parents in their transition to a new, critical role. What if they supported new carers too?  Businesses would benefit from retaining skilled employees, maintaining productivity.  In return, employees would be more committed and happier.

This may also help stem national social and health service bankruptcy.  Some estimates have put the annual total value of the ‘informal’/unpaid care given by UK family caregivers equivalent to that of the total annual cost of running the NHS, so we need carers to keep giving care. Many carers need the income to do this, in addition to the mental nourishment from purpose and forged relationships.

“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” James Kirkup, director at the Social Market Foundation in a press release, 16 July 2018, titled Family carers propping up the care system – and paying the price.

So, business leaders, you can support 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, Feb 2019. Some creative thinking, small adjustments (on both sides) and great team-ship could make a big difference to many lives.

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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 in to your day.

The R4 ‘You and Yours’ pre-record at BBC Oxford.