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Employers must act to avoid workplace ‘crisis’ among carers

16 Jan 2019 By Lauren Brown

Two-fifths of ‘sandwich carers’ unable to work as much as they would like, says report, amid financial and mental health struggles

More than two in five (41 per cent) ‘sandwich carers’ feel unable to work at all or as much as they would like, statistics from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) have revealed.

In its latest Understanding Society survey, the ONS found a third of respondents who care for both sick, disabled or older relatives as well as dependent children, were “just getting by” financially.

A further one in 10 said they were finding it either “difficult” or “very difficult” to cope.

Women were more likely to feel professionally restricted than men. Almost half (46 per cent) of the 34,000 women surveyed felt unable to work at all or as much as they would like, compared to 35 per cent of men.

The survey also found more than two-thirds (68 per cent) of women sandwich carers provided at least 20 hours of adult care per week. 


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The research also found more than one in four (27 per cent) sandwich carers had symptoms of mental ill-health, with those providing more hours of care the worst affected. 

Responding to the findings, Paul Edwards, director of clinical services at Dementia UK, said employers had to play a key role in understanding the stresses and challenges faced by sandwich carers if a “workplace crisis” was to be avoided. 

“No one should have to put on a pretence that they’re getting by at work. Openness and support should rule the day,” he said.

Edwards recommended employers implement flexible working practices, as well as a carers policy which anticipated the challenges and needs of this generation of workers. 

Jessica Chivers, CEO of the Talent Keeper Specialists, agreed flexible working arrangements were vital to supporting those with dual caring responsibilities. “For me, the answer lies in giving people agency, control, autonomy. It’s about employees knowing what they’re expected to deliver and then being allowed to get on and jigsaw their lives together in a way that means they can deliver at home and at work and for their own health.”

She added: “Employers need to start advertising roles as flexible so that people know they are likely to be able to do the job as well as continue to honour their commitments beyond work.” 

Earlier this week, the government-led Flexible Working Task Force urged employers to advertise jobs of all levels and pay grades as flexible, as CIPD research revealed the uptake of flexible working had not increased since 2010. 

Steven Cameron, pensions directors at Aegon, said that as society continued to age it would be critical the issue of who provides care and how it is paid for was debated.

“We hope the government’s promised deal for social care funding, which faces further delays amid Brexit planning, will allow people to plan ahead for their social care costs and ease both the time and financial burden the sandwich generation currently face,” he said.

A spokesperson from the Department of Health and Social Care told People Management: “Carers make an invaluable contribution to society by selflessly caring for friends and family, and we recognise this must not come at the expense of their own health and wellbeing.

“Our forthcoming green paper will look at long-term sustainable solutions for the social care system, including measures to support carers.”

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