Employees using sick leave to care for elderly relatives



One sixth of staff now have caring responsibilities for older family members, says survey, with scant support in place

Employees are resorting to using annual and sick leave to look after elderly relatives, according to a survey that reveals the growing impact of caring responsibilities on the workforce.

The study of more than 1,000 people by benefits provider Willis PMI Group found that around a sixth (16 per cent) have taken time off or worked irregular hours because of caring responsibilities. Of these, 39 per cent have used annual leave to meet their responsibilities, while 34 per cent resorted to sick leave and 32 per cent compassionate leave.

Just 21 per cent of those with caring responsibilities were granted flexible-working arrangements by their employer.

This chimes with research published earlier this year, which showed that only one in three organisations had either a formal, written policy or even an informal, verbal system in place to support working carers.

The joint report from the CIPD and Westfield Health said 38 per cent of employers had no carer support policies at all – and no plans to implement them in the near future. It suggested that 7 in 10 did not keep track of how many of their staff had caring responsibilities.

Willis PMI Group director Mike Blake said: “An ageing workforce poses a number of significant challenges for UK business. Already, 30 per cent of the country’s workforce is over the age of 50, meaning many will find themselves needing to juggle work with the responsibility of caring for an elderly relative, often a parent.

“Often, employees will find it difficult to ask for help and may try to continue working as if nothing is wrong, which is why it is important for businesses to ensure the appropriate support is in place to avoid an impact on sickness absence.”

Blake said employers should have open conversations with staff about caring responsibilities and treat them much like the parenting duties that often occur earlier in life.

“If you help one person, then surely you would treat others the same, so it is best to have a policy in place,” he said. “You will foster commitment and loyalty in a competitive environment for employees, and morale will go up.”

More than half of those surveyed by Willis PMI called for employee benefit providers to offer more services providing support and guidance for people with caring responsibilities. Blake said firms could consider “eldercare benefits”.

“These schemes are not yet commonly used, but can help to provide everything from extra care at home to assistance with financial planning,” he said.

Madeleine Starr, director of membership body Employers for Carers, said: “In the same way as the government sees childcare as an essential condition for employment, it must now do the same with social care. The new cross-government carers strategy provides an unmissable opportunity to improve support for working carers.

“Employers that are addressing the caring agenda are seeing the positive effects on their workplace culture, retention rates and productivity. Recognising and supporting carers in the workplace is not only the right thing to do, it also makes clear business sense.”

Story via – http://www.cipd.co.uk/pm/peoplemanagement/b/weblog/archive/2016/08/26/employees-using-sick-leave-to-care-for-elderly-relatives.aspx

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