Many companies globally have been trying to make their policies employee-friendly in terms of work-life balance. For instance, maternity and paternity leave, and flexible hours – or, even, a sabbatical – are common. However, few companies recognize the need of care providers to the elderly, ill, or disabled to take time off. A report published by Carers UK, a charity in the UK, calls for more flexibility in the workplace for carers.
I can sympathize with that call. I have an 84-year-old mother and a disabled sister to take care of. Even though I live separately in another house in the same city, I need to spare time and energy to look after their needs, including health concerns.
I hope companies wake up to the reality of the care-giving workforce and offer flexibility and support to them.
Care-givers often make professional sacrifices and undergo stress, especially if they are “sandwich carers,” that is, those who have children, too, to care for.
Some have to quit their well-paying jobs. According to research by Carers UK, the pressures of looking after an elderly, ill or disabled family member have made almost half a million people quit their jobs in the UK in the past two years.
The charity's head, Helen Walker, says that 15 percent of the working population is "now working and caring," according to the BBC. The report estimates that almost 5 million people in the UK are trying to juggle caring for a family member and working fulltime. The number has risen from 3 million in 2011. The rise has been due to an ageing population, and most carers are over the age of 45.
Terry, a UK worker, quit his job in London as a hospital administrator after his mother died so he could move to Monmouth and live with his 92-year-old father, who had begun to “struggle with everyday tasks.”
Furthermore, those caring often undergo stress, depression, and anxiety, given that the people who need care may be invalid or frail and given the constraints a job places on time and location. Sandwich carers are particularly vulnerable. The Carers UK report comes in the wake of a warning from the Office for National Statistics of a growing number of such workers.
Carers UK says there is a "real social and economic imperative" for workplaces to be made "carer-friendly."