Flexible working for carers

Photo by alexanderromero via Flickr, under Creative Commons Licence

Photo by alexanderromero via Flickr, under Creative Commons Licence

Most of us feel the pressure at work at times and feel like we’re struggling to get everything done. But what about those who work (often full time) and then return home to their ‘other’ (unpaid) job of caring for relatives?

Research carried out in 2011 by Macmillan Cancer Support and MORI concluded that 46% of people currently caring for someone with cancer are in full-time work, representing around 500,000 people in the UK. Of these, one in nine (11%) provide more than 35 hours of care a week. Perhaps not surprisingly,  nearly half (46%) suffer with emotional and mental health problems such as stress, anxiety and depression, and one in eight (13%) say it’s causing physical health issues such as exhaustion, sleep and digestive problems.

Other figures released by the Office for National Statistics (reported in The Independent in February 2013) said that 5.8 million people in England and Wales (one in 10) are providing unpaid care. The majority of these carers are women, many of whom end up dropping out of the labour market due to the strain of juggling their work and carer commitments.

According to Frances O’Grady, the general secretary of the TUC:

“Far too many women are forced to trade down or even quit jobs when they take on caring responsibilities. Not enough employers truly embrace flexible working, despite the benefits it holds for staff and the business.”

Under the Work and Families Act 2006, some employees already have a legal right to request flexible working and their employers have a duty to consider their requests seriously. In April 2007, these rights were extended to qualifying employees who have caring responsibilities for an adult spouse, partner, civil partner, near relative or an adult living at the same address.

However, even those who do not specifically have the right to request flexible working under the Work and Families Act 2006 are entitled to as ask for the implementation of flexible working arrangements. These arrangements generally benefit both organisations and workers as employers can retain skilled staff and reduce recruitment costs, and employees are able to strike a better balance between their home and work responsibilities.

For guidance on making workplace adjustments to help those with carer responsibilities to continue working, including setting up flexible working arrangements, or for guidance on health issues that are affecting your employees at work, contact the free Health for Work Adviceline on 0800 0 77 88 44.

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One Response to Flexible working for carers

  1. Mike Tucker says:

    Permanent “home working” jobs would suit many carers – the problem is the unavailability of such work. However….both Central and Local Government advertise plenty of vacancies “in-office” (with all the resulting overheads) which could be done more economically and as efficiently “out-of-office” (because “my computer is my office”). These jobs are not limited to data input or high-tech stuff but any sort of so-called “knowledge transfer” – education, legal, design, HR, finance, copywriting etc. The best paid “virtual” job in the US is radiology! Can I suggest that readers apply for these jobs as “home workers”? If enough pressure builds, perhaps the Government will consider this as a socially responsible, cost-saving alternative and provide such “fit-for-purpose” work……