Statistically, three in five women say that their caring role has blocked their career progress. For men, one in five say caring had stopped them from applying for promotion or a new job. As we can see, the act of balancing work and caring responsibilities is a challenge that poses a risk to the growth of both employees and the business. This June, we will celebrate National Carers Week. It brings a good opportunity for you to show support for your working carers. Join Sherry Bevan in this episode as she highlights the difficulties working carers face, what it says about being a woman, how it affects the gender pay gap, and what this celebration can do to your people. It is time to take better care of our working carers. Let them know you value them.
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National Carers Week: Show Support For Your Working Carers
Welcome to the show. I work as a Leadership Consultant partnering with cybersecurity and technology companies to help them develop and retain their female talent so that they close the gender pay gap. Thank you so much for joining me. I’d love for you to check out this episode and then come back to the next episode. To make it easier, you simply need to subscribe to the show. Let’s get into this episode.
The Challenges Faced By Working Carers
I would like to share some thoughts on how you can use National Carers Week to support your working carers. National Carers Week is in June. It’s a really important week to demonstrate that you support and value your working carers. Before I talk about how you can make use of National Carers Week, let me first try and set the scene for you to give you some context so that you can understand how many of your staff does this potentially affects. You might’ve seen in an issue of HR Director that 3 in 5 women say that their caring role has blocked their career progress. That is based on some research conducted with Ipsos and Business in the Community.
6 out of 10 women, so 58%, stopped applying for a promotion or for a new job because of the pressure of their caring responsibilities. It doesn’t just affect women. It does affect men as well. For example, 1 in 5 men, or 20%, said caring had stopped them from applying for promotion or a new job. It does affect them, but it affects women much more. A much higher percentage have stopped themselves from applying for a promotion or a new job.
1 in 5 have handed in their notice and quit their job because the act of trying to balance work and caring responsibilities was too much. In fact, I’ve got personal experience of this because when my father died, overnight, I became a full-time carer for my stepmother, who was bedridden and had dementia. It was impossible to balance work and caring responsibilities.
35% of all adults and 44% of working adults do have some sort of caring responsibilities, but it’s not spread equally. What we see is that women make up 85% of sole carers for children and 65% of sole carers for older adults. What we also see is that there are more people from ethnic minority backgrounds, so 42% have caring responsibilities than those from White backgrounds.
We have rapidly become a society of sandwich carers because we’re having children later and we’re living longer.
You might not realize how this affects your company, but in fact, 6.5 million people in the UK are working carers, and when I talk about working carers, I’m talking about carers specifically who are looking after elderly parents or relatives. I’m not talking about people who’ve taken on childcare responsibilities. In this particular episode, I’m going to focus on those working carers who are looking after an elderly parent or elderly relative.
Sixty-two percent of those carers do that caring for elderly relatives on top of their full-time paid work, and the thing is, very often, they don’t tell anyone at work, but it’s hard to balance work and caring. It means that they’re at risk of exhaustion, stress, and overwhelm. This potentially can have a huge impact on your gender pay gap because it’s mostly women who take on the caring responsibility, particularly over the age of 40. In other words, that’s your senior female talent pool, the ones you hope will be your next generation of leaders or the women who should be at the peak of their careers.
We have rapidly become a society of sandwich carers because we’re having children later and we’re living longer. That peak age for being a sandwich carer is between 40 and 49. There’s no surprise that women are much more likely to be sandwich carers caring for both a young child and an elderly parent. I’ve told you quite a bit about how the percentages and the data show more women doing this than men, but this isn’t just about supporting women to balance their work and caring responsibilities. We need to make it okay for men to have that flexible working for caring responsibilities, whether that’s caring for a child or for an elderly relative.
Gender Pay Gap
Let’s look a bit more closely at how this does affect your gender pay gap, and the main reason it affects your gender pay gap is that so many carers find it difficult to balance and combine paid work with caring. What happens is that they start to reduce their working hours so that they feel able to cope. They turn down job offers or they turn down promotions, or they decide against applying for new roles going up in their career. It’s often because they’re starting to experience some emotional and physical exhaustion.
They’re often very highly stressed and overwhelmed, so they tend to start to experience difficulties with concentration at work. What happens is they start to use up their annual leave or they take sick time in order to provide that care. The result of that means they’re not getting any personal free time, which means they’re even more at risk or in danger of burnout. What we see as well for some people is they start to work at the weekends or they work late in the evenings to make up the hours that they might’ve had to spend caring during the day.
The Ipsos and the BITC, the Business in the Community, research came up with some recommendations for employers. Their first recommendation was that you need to consider that caring is the norm and that it’s not the exception. Being a carer affects so many of us, so you need to take that into consideration when you’re looking at your employee experience developing your policies. It’s important to champion equitable access to care for all genders, men and women, in your policies. Don’t think about this being a woman’s thing. Foster a culture that supports men to care.
Often, men struggle more with those caring responsibilities when they are the primary carer because they don’t feel it is okay to ask. They don’t feel it’s appropriate. They feel that peer pressure. Look at promoting and fostering a coach that supports men’s care, particularly being very clear that you promote and support flexible working for men.
Why It Is Important To Support Carers
Let’s look at why it’s important to support your carers. Let’s look at this from a business perspective. It’s going to enhance your reputation as an employer. If you’re an employer who is seen to promote and support a flexible working culture or a culture that supports carers, it’s going to build a strong employer brand.
That, in turn, will help you to attract good talent and keep that good talent so that they don’t quit because they’re struggling to balance work, life, and caring responsibilities. It’s going to reduce stress and sickness levels, and therefore the cost of covering sickness absence or other absence, and it’s going to increase overall employee productivity and employee engagement.
From a legal perspective, it’s important to support your carers because you have obligations under the flexible working regulations and under the equality legislation relating to disability, which could apply to carers. You can’t treat carers less favorably than others who do not have caring responsibilities. It’s important to remember that carers do have the right to take unpaid time off work for dependents in an emergency.
So many carers find it difficult to balance and combine paid work with caring.
From a moral perspective, it’s the right thing to do, and we know that working carers who feel supported are less likely to give up their job altogether or ask for part-time or flexible hours. They’re less likely to find it difficult to concentrate at work. They’re less likely to turn down a promotion or to decide against applying for a new role. They’re less likely to take sick leave to provide that care and less likely to take unpaid leave to provide that care.
We know that employers and line managers want to be supportive. They want to support, care for, and value their teammates or their colleagues who are working carers. They have that empathy for the needs of their employees, but often, they feel they don’t have the time to help or support their employees. Very often, they don’t know what they can do. They’re unclear about what a possibility is and what not a possibility is. Sometimes, they lack the capacity to do so. It’s not that they don’t want to do it, but they don’t know what to do.
What Working Carers Value
There was some research published in June 2020 by CIPD with the University of Sheffield. They looked at what working carers value. What do they want from their employer? This is a list of those things that came up in that research. Working carers want to be able to use a telephone or to have private time during the day to make or receive calls.
You can’t predict when you’re going to get a phone call from the care home to say your mother has had a fall. The carers value where employers offer counseling or well-being support, so if that’s something that you’re looking at or exploring, or if you already have it, how are you promoting that to your working carers?
They find it helpful when employers have a formal policy on offering unpaid or paid leave for carers. It makes it so much easier when there is a formal policy that everybody’s aware of, that their line managers know how to make use of that and that their carers are encouraged to make use of it. They want to know where they can go for support. It could be signposting to external sources of support. They want to have guidance on what organizational support is available. You might have policies or an employee assistance program, but how easy is it for people to find out about it?
Working carers also value having a network or a forum within the company that is specifically for other working carers. That can be helpful. They value it when you take action and demonstrate your support on an awareness base. We’ve got National Carers Week from the 6th to the 12th of June 2022, so this is a perfect opportunity for you to show your support and how much you value these working carers.
What working carers also want is autonomy and flexibility in their working hours. It’s that flexible working that really is flexible. It’s not having to say in advance that they’re going to start at 10:00 AM and finish at 5:00 PM, but perhaps maybe starting at 8:00 AM one day and starting at 9:00 AM the next day, or maybe not starting until 11:00 AM, so that they’ve got time to go and deal with those unexpected minor emergencies that need to be dealt with.
Perhaps, it can also be looking at other flexible working options. It’s the ability to work from home on some days without giving lots of reasons and filling in lots of forms. Consider using job share or compressed hours. There are lots of ways that flexible working can be a real benefit, and our working carers value it.
The CIPD has lots of recommendations for you, so I’m going to walk you through what they suggest and recommend. The first thing is that you should develop and communicate a carer policy or a framework or guidance. Have a clear definition of what it means to be a carer. Develop that policy, framework, or guidance, so it’s clear to everybody, whether that’s the individual employees, line managers, or senior management. Outline the different roles and responsibilities. What’s available? Where can people go to get support? Then, make sure that you’ve communicated that approach so that you start to embed that culture of support.
If you haven’t already, take time to consider how you introduce and when you introduce flexible working specifically to support working carers. When you’re hiring, start off by making it very clear from the start that you are flexible and that you do offer flexible working practices. Be really transparent about what that means. Empower your line managers to support those flexible workers and support working carers who perhaps need more flexibility than others.
Working carers who feel supported are less likely to give up their job altogether or ask for part-time or flexible hours.
There is also providing carer’s leave, whether that’s paid or unpaid. The key thing with the carer’s leave is that you don’t always know when you’re going to need it. You don’t know when your father or mother might take a fall, or when your father gets sick and you suddenly need to be providing extra cafe. You can provide the carer’s leave as unpaid or paid, but it needs to be so that it can be requested at short notice. It’s being adaptable about it, being requested at short notice, and being empathic and sympathetic about that.
It’s great to have policies and to have support available, but what’s important is to empower your line managers so that they can support the carers in their teams. You can do that by promoting open culture. Make sure that your line managers have awareness and knowledge about your organization’s approach to supporting carers.
Provide training for them so that they know what they can do and what support is available. It’s important to engage those senior leaders so that they can support carers and start creating those inclusive cultures. We all know those inclusive cultures. When you start to build that inclusive culture, it’s making work for everyone and not just for working carers or for parents of young children.
The final recommendation from the CIPD is about providing information and peer-to-peer support. Provide information on what workplace support is available to carers. Look at developing some in-house support group or forum for your carers, and do make sure that you signpost to other sources of information. I’ve already mentioned that National Carers Week is coming up, and I have put together two awareness packs for you that you can use to support your working carers.
National Carers Week
Your ideal opportunity to launch a campaign or raise awareness and demonstrate that you care is during National Carers Week, from the 6th to the 12th of June 2022. If you’ve not heard about this before, it’s an annual campaign to raise awareness of caring and to highlight the challenges that unpaid carers face. The theme this 2022 is to make caring visible, valued, and supported. To help you do that, I’ve created two awareness packs that you can use in a variety of ways to enhance your reputation as a carer-friendly workplace, increase staff engagement, and know that you can signpost staff to additional resources so that they are more productive and less likely to burn out or quit.
There are two awareness packs. One is for working carers themselves and the other one has been designed to support your line managers. The first pack is aimed at working carers. It’s to give them information and tips on how to balance work and caring for elderly relatives. It’s been designed to give them the opportunity to explore how to do that and how to look after their own well-being because often, we all know we should look after our own well-being as well. It’s important but it often gets dropped first.
The pack will also help you to signpost your working carers to their legal rights and to other support and resources that may be available. If they’re able to balance their work and their caring responsibilities better, it means they’ll be less likely to take time off-cycle to go into overwhelm, stress, and burnout. That means they’ll be more productive at work as well.
If they know what other support is available, because often, working carers aren’t aware of what else is available to support them with caring for elderly relatives, it means they’ll be less likely to need to take time off work. It means that productivity will be increased and their exhaustion and burnout will hopefully go down as well. When staff feels more supported in the workplace, it means that you’re going to increase staff engagement and retention as well in the long run.
The line manager awareness pack has been designed to raise awareness among your leaders and line managers so that they feel better equipped to support their teams and to find out more about the challenges that carers face, so they have more empathy and that they can support them more effectively and with more understanding.
It’s been designed so that they get real clarity on what support and benefits are available for caring workers, whether that’s support, benefits, and policies within your company or outside. If they’re better able to support their working carers, it means your carers are less likely to quit or turn down promotions because they’ll feel valued and supported. It’s about making sure that your line managers understand the relevant policies that you have in place.
The two awareness packs that I have available include a PowerPoint file and a resources sheet. The PowerPoint file and the resources sheet are editable. The great thing about that is that it means you can apply your in-house branding. Plus, you can tailor those resources so that you can include information on your company’s relevant policies. You can either use the pack to develop a PDF or virtual or in-person awareness sessions so that staff can benefit wherever they’re based.
You can either publish that on your internet or run some in-person sessions during National Carers Week in June. If you’re interested in this, each one of these packs is £300 or if you want to buy both, it’s £450. This is your golden opportunity to enhance your reputation as a carer-friendly inclusive workplace where you’re working carers feel valued and supported so that they don’t burn out or quit. If you’re interested, then do get in touch quickly because you want to get those wellness packs well in time for National Carers Week, which runs from the 6th to the 12th of June. Email me if you’re interested in those.
Hopefully, that’s been helpful to look at some of the ways you can support your working carers and why it’s important to do that, and what the benefits are for your employees and you as an employer. Thank you so much for joining me. If you want to check out more episodes of the show, you can go and visit SherryBevan.co.uk.
If this has sparked an idea for you and your organization, I’d love for you to book an exploratory chat with me. This will give you the opportunity to ask any questions you have about the work that I do with cybersecurity and technology companies on attracting, developing, and retaining your female talent so that you close the gender pay gap. Get in touch with me by email at Sherry@SherryBevan.co.uk to book your call.
Thanks so much for tuning in. I’ll be back soon.