Support for carers in the workplace should be a business priority

Rachael Saunders, Age at Work Director, Business in the Community speaks of the actions that can be taken to support carers in the workplace. 


Earlier this week a CIPD report found that only 34% of employers have a working carers policy, and 38% do not have any policies to support working carers or plans to develop one. This is a huge oversight for employers, who risk losing out on experience and skills of employees with caring responsibilities.

We know that 12% of employees in the UK have a caring responsibility of some sort, and that the majority of carers are aged 50-64. And, as the population ages and older workers take on further caring responsibilities (such as those squeezed between caring for their grandchildren and their elderly parents), the number is only likely to increase. Many of these carers are also likely to be dealing with their own long-term health conditions – half of all working people over 50 have a chronic health condition.

However, a lack of support for working carers can mean they struggle to balance their work and their caring responsibilities. Our ‘Missing Million’ report found that being unable to manage these competing demands is one of the biggest reasons for people over 50 leaving the workplace early. This exodus of talent could potentially have a significant impact on employers, as many of these employees will have skills and experiences that could be hugely beneficial for their co-workers and for organisations as a whole.

So what can employers do to retain the working carers within their organisations and provide them with the support they need? We recommend the following actions:

  • Introducing carers’ networks, carers’ leave and support for elder care as an employee benefit.
  • Creating workplace care champions to increase visibility of carers in your organisation and role model balancing work and care.
  • Embedding carers in family-friendly and work-life balance policies and in health and wellbeing initiatives.
  • Offering flexible working arrangements for working carers to help them manage work and caring responsibilities.

Caring responsibilities can be hugely demanding, but employees shouldn’t feel pressured to make a choice between their work and their home life. Instead, by providing support to help working carers stay in their jobs, employers can ensure they retain their top talent and continue to gain from their knowledge. Putting a working carers’ policy in place is a key step to doing just that.