October 7, 2014
The UK’s workforce is struggling to find the right balance between their work and domestic responsibilities according to the latest Absence Management report from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development. The report also suggests that, although overall absence levels are falling, much of this is down to people going into work when they perhaps shouldn’t with a third of employers reporting presenteeism. Stress and mental health problems in the workplace also remain high, with more than 40 percent of employers citing an increase, despite signs of economic recovery. One area in which absenteeism is rising is workers taking time off to care for children and elderly or disabled relatives and friends. More than a third of those employers surveyed reported an increase in absence levels amongst staff who are struggling to cope with their caring responsibilities outside of work. However only a sixth of employers have policies in place to provide a better level of support.
Flexible working arrangements are by far the most common type of support (68 percent), followed by compassionate leave (53 percent) and paid or unpaid carers’ leave (48 percent). Just over two-fifths (42 percent) of employers offer access to counselling services and three in 10 offer career breaks and sabbaticals. One in six organisations offer access to financial services (17 percent) or options to purchase additional annual leave days (15 percent). Although only one in six employers say they have organisation-wide policies or guidelines in place for carers, an additional two-fifths say they do offer support to individuals on an ad hoc basis.
The report, produced in conjunction with Simply Health, claims that overall absence levels have dropped to an average of 6.6 days a year, down by a day over the past year. There remains a clear distinction between absence levels in the public sector and private sector at 7.9 days and 5.5 days respectively.
Emily Holzhausen, director of policy at Carers UK, said 3 million people are juggling work with caring for an older or disabled loved one. She estimates this costs businesses £3.5bn a year, with extra costs to the economy and to the families themselves in lost earnings and pensions.
Jill Miller, CIPD research adviser, said: “With the sandwich generation, people have children later, and are looking after their young family as well as looking after elderly relatives or friends in the ageing babyboomer generation. 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.”