There’s a solid business case for supporting employees juggling work and caregiving responsibilities, participants at an event in Toronto heard on Wednesday.
“Those employers are doing it because it makes business sense . . . and actually, it affects their bottom line if they lose carers because they don’t provide them with the flexibility they need,” said Helena Herklots, chief executive at Carers UK, during an event in Toronto on April 27 on the experience of British employers with the issue.
Carers UK, a national membership charity for caregivers, has 100 employer members in its Employers for Carers network. Among the employers leading the way for caregivers in the workplace, according to the organization, are the Bank of England, British Telecom, EDF Energy, KPMG, London School of Economics, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Transport for London and UBS.
But what about employers in Canada? “There is more sense of a carers’ movement internationally in recent years,” said Herklots, adding that Britain’s Care Act, which puts the rights of unpaid carers on the same legal footing as those with care needs, has really pushed the conversation in that country.
In its first federal budget on March 22, Canada’s Liberal government took a step towards supporting carers with its commitment to making compassionate care benefits easier to access and more inclusive for those who provide care for seriously ill family members. The government has also touted providing more flexibility in parental leave benefits.
Research conducted for Carers UK shows there are 6.5 million caregivers in Britain. In addition, one in eight adults have caregiving responsibilities with three million people combining them with paid work. “All of us, at some point in our lives, will either be caring for someone or will need that care ourselves,” said Herklots. “This is the biggest issue any society is facing right now. It needs a society-wide response.”
Carer UK’s own annual research showed 60 per cent of working caregivers are worried about their ability to return to work. “We’re hoping to see more services developed that are tailored around work, that recognize that if you’re caring for someone and you’re at work, you need to be able to rely on the care that’s happening when you’re not there,” said Herklots.
“Otherwise, you’re at work but half your head is elsewhere. So, we’re hoping to see more development and more flexible services that fit more around carers rather than carers having to fit around those services.”