Research conducted by Aviva shows that 19 per cent of employees believe they will need to quit their job to care for a partner or relative due to financial constraints.
The survey, which took into account views from over 2,000 employees, demonstrates that individuals who reach this particular stage in their life can struggle to continue in their roles due to care bill demands. Of those asked, 20 per cent believed that women were going to be more likely to have to leave their job for caring responsibilities, whist one in 10 prepared to do the same to care for their children or grandchildren. Despite this, just six per cent of organisations viewed caring commitments as a major issue for their workforce.
Lindsey Rix, managing director of Aviva, outlines that ‘the practical, financial and emotional costs of caring for relatives both young and old are forcing many people in mid-life to make increasingly difficult decisions about balancing their commitments.’ She adds that ‘mid-life is the fastest growing age demographic’ and that it is ‘concerning to see that only a small percentage of employers are prioritising the issue of care’. Her views are shared by senior programme manager for the Centre for Ageing Better, Patrick Thompson, who outlines it is ‘vital’ for organisations to accommodate the needs of carers, or risk ‘increasing numbers forced out of work for years to come’.
Currently, there is no specific legal entitlement for carers to take additional time off for their responsibilities and whether this is permitted is down to the discretion of organisational management. That said, there are certain options that may be open to employees in this situation that the organisation should ensure awareness of. For example, permitting employees to work flexible hours can help them to better plan their caring responsibilities around their role and avoid them taking long periods of time away from it. Likewise, all employees are entitled to take a reasonable amount of time off to care for a ‘dependant’, although this must be for an unforeseen emergency. The law defines a dependant as a child, parent, spouse or someone who depends upon the employee for care.
Whilst Aviva’s findings do not mean that the law is likely to change any time soon, they do send a message to organisations of the increasing awareness of this issue. One of the best ways to tackle it is to create a carer’s policy. This can outline all the legal rights open to carers in the organisation, alongside any additional options that are offered to them. To give a high profile example, Aviva has introduced a carers’ policy that provides up to 70 hours of additional leave for those with caring responsibilities.