Rachael Saunders: Supporting carers will help older staff to stay in work

As our population gets older, many more people will need care due to chronic health conditions or disability. This is often provided by friends or relatives who are balancing that vitally important caring role with a paid job. One in five 50-64 year-olds are carers, but Business in the Community’s Missing million report, published in October 2014, found that struggling to manage caring responsibilities was one of the main reasons that people over 50 were pushed out of the workforce. Yet employers that show they support and value carers will benefit from increased engagement and loyalty in return, leading to improved staff retention, engagement and productivity.

In February 2017, Business in the Community’s age at work leadership team, as the government’s business champion for older workers, called on businesses to commit to employing 12% more older workers by 2022 and to publish the number and percentage of over-50s in their workforce. Supporting employees who are balancing their jobs with caring responsibilities is a key part of achieving an increase in the number of older people who can stay in work.

Our Age in the workplace: retain, retrain, recruit report, published in September 2016, set out steps that employers can take to support carers in their workforce, including introducing carers’ networks to provide support, embedding carers into the organisation’s policy on work-life balance, health and wellbeing, family and absence, and introducing carers’ leave. Establishing a carers’ champion to promote an organisation’s support for carers, including during events like Carers Week, can also tackle stigma and increase carer visibility. Finally, enabling remote or flexible working can help employees of all ages balance caring responsibilities alongside their work.

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With a million older people out of work who would like to return, and a potential skills gap of 7.5 million in five years, according to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development’s March 2012 report Managing a healthy ageing workforce: a national business imperative, it is vital that employers support their older workers to stay in their jobs, as well as helping those who wish to return to the workplace. Supporting employees of all ages to balance caring responsibilities and their careers is vital to this.

Rachael Saunders is age at work director at Business in the Community (BITC)