How HR can ease pressures on all carers, not just parents

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

In the UK alone, there are currently around six and a half million people who are carers, with three in five people likely to become a carer at some point in their lives.

However, many of those who provide care and support for others don’t view themselves as carers - yet one in five often have to give up work to care for someone.

Paternal and maternal leave are legislated for and childcare benefits from employers are increasingly viewed as vital to facilitate a work-life balance. But what about those with extended care responsibilities?

According to an Ernst & Young survey, 38% of Generation X-ers (those born between 1965 and 1980) said they would leave their current job if flexibility wasn’t available, in comparison to 33% of Millennials and 25% of baby boomers.

In addition, an AARP report from 2012 found that 42% of Gen X-ers had a financially dependent child as well as a parent older than 65.

Speaking to HR Grapevine, Kelly Feehan, Services Director at CABA, a charity committed to helping workers look after themselves, says that she sees a very different side to the needs of parents.

“CABA’s work with Dementia UK has exposed a ’squeezed middle’ in which parents often find themselves caught between ailed parents and children who both require equal amounts of care and attention,” she says.

“The sandwich generation, as carers for both the generation above and below are commonly known, will become increasingly prevalent as our ageing population grows. 

“So, is it time to re-evaluate the way we look at parental leave to encompass a wider definition to ‘carers’?”

Feehan urges employers to recognise that workers often care for their elderly parents as well as children and that both responsibilities need equal recognition.

“Managers must be trained to look for the symptoms of stress and build good relationships with their employees so they can help employees to balance caring duties,” she explains. “It’s not about making concessions and giving extra time off, but creating a flexible plan around working hours in order to take care of parents. Managers need to communicate openly with their employees in order to make those adjustments.

“There also needs to be a level of flexibility within the senior management team: the business must have family-friendly policies which extend to the generations that exist both above and below their employees.

“As employers and HR professionals, we must work towards extending caring duties towards elderly parents: giving a double meaning to the much-needed provision of parental leave and easing stress on carers.”

Shared from HR Grapevine