An ageing population means more people are living longer, and many employees are finding themselves caring for older, disabled or seriously ill relatives.

New research from Seniorcare by Lottie has found more employees than ever before are caring for an elderly loved one – whilst working full-time – leaving them at risk of mental health struggles and financial worry. Employers are also facing a crisis, with increased absenteeism at work.

Over the last 12 months, more workers turned to Google to find support for giving up employment to care for someone:

  • 300% increase in online searches on Google for ‘giving up work to be a carer’
  • 200% increase in online searches on Google for ‘giving up work to care for someone’
  • 25% increase in online searches on Google for ‘carers in the workplace’ and ‘working carers’

Ronan Harvey-Kelly, Seniorcare Lead at Lottie, warns about the on-going crisis facing employers: “More working carers are turning to Google, as opposed to discussing their struggles with their employer. Employees who are juggling the additional demands of caregiving are more likely to experience stress, absences from work and health problems.

An ageing population – and the coronavirus pandemic – has caused many caregiving workers to reduce their hours or quit their jobs. Previous research from the ONS has found that one in four older female workers, and one in eight older male workers, have caring responsibilities for an elderly relative.

Businesses urgently need a sustainable and dedicated solution to ensure that everyone can get the care and support they need in later life – without relying on the unpaid work of women.”

A practical toolkit for employers: How to support a caregiver in the workplace

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to raising awareness and sharing support for caregivers in the workplace. Here Ronan Harvey-Kelly – Seniorcare Lead at Lottie – shares five steps to support working carers in your business:

  1. Raise awareness of caregivers in the workplace

Caregivers are often deterred from disclosing their caregiving responsibilities, which places great strain on their wellbeing at work.

According to previous research, three in five women are more likely to have their career development stunted after announcing their informal carer responsibilities at work.

As a leader in your workplace, take the time to listen, understand and empathise with caregivers in your organisations. Simply being aware of caregiver needs is a huge step that bridges the gap between caregivers and their employers.

  1. Build a community

Previous research found that 80% of employees admitted their caregiving responsibilities impacted their performance at work.

Building a culture of support, empathy, and awareness of employees with elderly care responsibilities encourages your staff to be open and communicate about their struggles. Internal eldercare committees and groups are becoming increasingly common and effective in the workplace and can reduce any pressure employees are facing with their additional caregiver responsibilities.

  1. Learn to recognise the signs of caregiving stress

Elderly caregiving responsibilities can increase the risk of mental health issues, especially if they don’t have access to the right support. Caregiving stress is at an all-time high, so watch out for employees that act frustrated, anxious, or unproductive.

Recognising the signs can help you educate your team on stress management and offer a practical solution to the stress they’re experiencing. Encourage your staff to take regular breaks away from work and connect them with support services, including free resources from MIND.

Ultimately, positive mental health and wellbeing will lead to a more engaged and productive workforce.

  1. Consider flexible working policies

In many ways, your caregiving workers have two jobs, so it’s important to make their lives as easy as possible. Flexible working is the business benefit at the top of almost every employee’s wish list, especially for those who are unpaid carers for elderly relatives.

Offering caregivers flexibility at work can alleviate a lot of pressure for those who may need to help their elderly loved ones first thing in the morning or in the afternoon. You’ll also increase your team’s productivity and lower their stress levels.

  1. Implement policies to protect caregivers

By offering eldercare workplace support services, employers can have a positive impact on their employees who provide care to loved ones, helping them be more effective in both their professional and personal roles.

One of the best ways to support a caregiver at work is to provide practical support. You can offer support in several ways, including offering advice from experts on finding a suitable home for your elderly loved one.

Giving employees access to expert care and impartial advice will enable them to be more productive, whilst providing their elderly loved ones with the care they deserve.