Softworks Blog

Employers Struggling with High Absenteeism Due to ‘Secret’ Carers

Posted by Mairead Walsh on Mon, Oct 6, 2014

New research from CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development, reports that more than one in three employers have reported an increase in absenteeism due to staff struggling to cope with their caring responsibilities outside of work. However, only one in six organisations have policies in place to help achieve a better balance between their home and working lives. 

Absenteeism resized 600

The annual CIPD/Simplyhealth Absence Management survey shows that savvy employers put policies in place to help staff fulfil their caring responsibilities outside of work while continuing to meet the demands of their job.

  • Flexible working arrangements are by far the most common type of support (68%), followed by compassionate leave (53%) and (paid or unpaid) carers’ leave (48%).
  • Two-fifths (42%) offer access to counselling services and three in ten offer career breaks and sabbaticals.
  • One in six organisations offer access to financial services (17%) or options to purchase additional annual leave days (15%).
  • Although only one in six employers say they have organisation wide policies or guidelines in place for carers, an additional two fifths report that they do offer support to individuals on an ad hoc basis.
  • The CIPD is now calling on more businesses to adopt a formal policy to support workers, and ultimately benefit business.

Dr. Jill Miller, CIPD Research Adviser, comments: “Supporting those with caring responsibilities to balance their work and home lives, and therefore retaining our talent, is a key issue. Recent UKCES research has predicted that there will be four generations working side-by-side by 2030. With this 4G UK workforce, employers are having to manage an increasingly diverse range of employee needs. We’re seeing intergenerational issues coming to the fore; and in particular, a rise in the number of people with caring responsibilities. And this is an issue that is set to increase for the growing ‘sandwich generation.’ As people have children later, and are looking after parents in the ageing baby boomer generation, they find themselves caring for both their children and their older relatives.

“It’s therefore absolutely vital that employers have strong wellbeing policies in place, and communicate the benefits of flexible working to their employees, who all have the right to request to work flexibly under new legislation. But most importantly, line managers need to receive adequate training on how to have constructive discussions with their staff about the various benefits available to them. And it’s proven that flexible working can improve engagement and productivity within the workforce. With this in mind, hopefully in the future more workers will be able to handle the demands of caring.”

Corinne Williams, Head of HR at Simplyhealth, comments: “Adapting both working practices and health and wellbeing initiatives to support the changing needs of today’s modern workforce is a must for organisations. The expectation that employees conform to rigid working patterns is becoming a thing of the past as demands on an individual’s time continue to increase. This ‘sandwich’ generation are operating at capacity and it’s essential that they receive as much support as possible to help them meet their commitments at home as well as at work. Although it’s great to see that this year a fifth of organisations have increased their wellbeing spend, it needn’t cost the earth. Understanding the issues affecting your employees and equipping line management with the tools they need to help support them is key to a healthy, happy workforce.”

Emily Holzhausen, Director of Policy at Carers UK, said: “3 million people are juggling work with caring for an older or disabled loved one. Without the right policies in the workplace and the support of good quality, flexible and affordable care services, these employees often feel unable to juggle it all, with millions feeling they have no alternative but to give up work to care. We estimate this costs business £3.5 billion a year, with extra costs to the economy and to the families themselves in lost earnings and pensions."

You can access the full report here. If you are looking to reduce absenteeism rates in your organisation, you may also be interested in downloading our free whitepaper Top Tips - How To Reduce Absenteeism In Your Organisation.



Topics: Time & Attendance, Absenteeism, Work-Life Balance