Supporting employees with care responsibilities

Caring for a sick or disabled family member is demanding enough in itself; working in paid employment at the same time, as many Europeans do, is particularly hard. However, despite the contribution that working carers make – both to the economy and in terms of providing care – the need to support them in their dual role is only starting to be recognised, at both company and policy level. Without support, it is likely that something will have to give: carers may be unable to contribute optimally in the workplace; they may be less able to provide the kind of care needed; or they may overstrain themselves in the effort to do both. 

Company initiatives to support carers

At a conference held in the University of Leeds, UK, on 13 August, Carers and work–care reconciliation, Eurofound’s Robert Anderson highlighted a number of examples of company initiatives to support working carers that Eurofound has documented. Some companies facilitate employees in remaining in employment, through flexible working hours, for instance, or permitting short interruptions of the working day for them to monitor, organise or provide care. Others enable longer periods of either leave or part-time working, some with financial support – by part payment for the time taken. While work-related measures are most common, initiatives also exist whereby employers help organise care-related support – such as information, counselling and supports for the costs of care or in finding care services. 

Changes needed in the workplace

Mr Anderson went on to stress what needs to happen next in order for working and caring to be seen as normal, and for such support to become a mainstream feature of employment. Crucially, awareness of the situation and needs of working carers should be raised; it is a lot lower than in relation to working parents. Managers, supervisors and staff all need to learn more about what it means to juggle work and care commitments, and the benefits that stem from creating a more supportive atmosphere. Particularly important is the role of the carer’s line manager: it is through negotiation with their manager that carers typically resolve day-to-day issues. Interestingly, despite the demands of their dual role, carers who are in employment still fare better than those who are not. Carers not in the workforce suffer worse health, more distress, deeper financial hardship and greater social exclusion.

To learn more about Eurofound's research into issues of care and family, visit the topic page on Care.

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