People struggling to cope with career and caring for children and relatives
The survey revealed that more and more people are having time off work because they are struggling to manage both their job and childcare or caring for elderly relatives.
Although absence levels have dropped to 6.6 days a year (7.9 in the public sector and 5.5 in the private sector), this is partly because people are going into work even when they are sick.
Absences are costing businesses £3.5 billion a year
Emily Holzhausen, director of policy at Carers UK has estimated that staff absenteeism is costing businesses around £3.5bn a year. There are then additional costs to the families themselves in lost earnings and pensions.
And yet only one in six organisations have a policy in place to support staff with their caring responsibilities. The CIPD is urging more businesses to adopt a formal policy to support workers, and consequently benefit their business also.
The Gov.uk website reports that ‘as an employee you’re allowed time off to deal with an emergency involving a dependant (spouse, partner, child, grandchild, parent, or someone who depends on you for care)’ and there are no limits as to how much time you take off, however ‘your employer may want to talk to you if they think time off is affecting your work’ and they don’t have to pay you.
CIPD research adviser Jill Miller believes that companies could do more to support staff and help reduce absences: “People have children later and are looking after their young family as well as looking after elderly relatives. That does take its toll on people. But there are some simple things employers can do. If you do allow people to work more flexibly, you can hang on to talent.”
Flexible working can “improve engagement and productivity”
Miller continues: “It’s proven that flexible working can improve engagement and productivity within the workforce.”
Many companies do offer flexible working arrangements. Other support includes compassionate leave and paid or unpaid carers’ leave. According to the survey, just over 40% of employers also offer access to counselling services and 30% offer career breaks and sabbaticals. One in six organisations offer access to financial services or options to purchase additional annual leave days.
In the survey many employers said they do have policies or guidelines in place for carers and some said they offer support to individuals on an ad hoc basis.
Under new legislation, all employees have the right to request to work flexibly. With stress and mental health problems in the workplace remaining high, it is important that businesses do have a policy in place and consider flexible working hours to support employees, reduce staff stress and ultimately benefit their business.