Businesses overlooking one in five 'sandwich’ carers, poll finds

Employers need to provide better support to avoid losing staff, experts say, as a third of dual carers say responsibilities impact their mental health

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One in five ‘sandwich’ carers, who have responsibilities for both children and elderly parents or relatives, do not receive enough support from their employer, a survey has found.

An Opinium poll of 2,000 UK adults, conducted for Unum UK, found that 21 per cent of people with dual caring responsibilities said their employer did not offer them support in balancing work and home responsibilities.

More than a third (35 per cent) of sandwich carers said their care responsibilities had impacted their mental health; 29 per cent said it had impacted them financially; and a quarter (25 per cent) said the extra responsibility had impacted their physical health.

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A fifth (21 per cent) of those polled had dual caring responsibilities, the equivalent of 6 million people if extrapolated across the entire UK workforce.

Mark Till, CEO of Unum UK, said it was clear that there was work employers needed to do in order to support sandwich carers. “The bottom line is employers must consider how to be understanding while providing effective support services to avoid losing staff who feel under-supported,” he said.

The poll found that 35 per cent of people with dual caring responsibilities wanted a specific support programme in place that signposted to external care provisions.

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Similarly, 31 per cent wanted provisions for onsite childcare or financial support of childcare, while 26 per cent wanted improved access to mental health assistance.

More than one in 10 (13 per cent) said they have left an unsupportive employer.

The findings chime with research released last month by Business in the Community (BITC), which found that more than half (58 per cent) of working adults had been stopped from applying to a new role or a promotion because of either child or adult caring responsibilities.

Commenting on the findings, Claire McCartney, senior policy adviser for resourcing and inclusion at the CIPD, said firms needed to recognise that some employees needed to balance their work with caring responsibilities.

“Every situation is different, so employers will need to speak to individuals about the arrangements and support that will best suit them,” she said, suggesting that providing flexible work options could make it easier for people with caring responsibilities.

“This could include flexi-time, compressed hours or part-time working, for example,” she said. Carers’ leave, both paid and unpaid, could also be helpful, McCartney added.