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23 Nov 2023
by Stephanie Leung

Why employees with elderly dependents need support at work

Elderly caregivers are the often overlooked heroes that have a vital role to play

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An estimated one in five UK employees juggle caring responsibilities around work. It’s vital that they gain recognition in the workplace and access to the right support for them to continue to thrive in work.

Carers Rights Day is on 23 November with the aim of ensuring carers are aware of their rights, have access to support, and to raise awareness of the needs of carers.

It’s the perfect opportunity to reflect on how well your business is supporting carers within your workforce. Understanding carers’ rights and creating a carer-inclusive workplace is not just a moral obligation, but also makes good business sense.

While new families and childcare are widely recognised and supported in the workplace, an often-overlooked group of heroes are quietly carrying out a critical role — that of elderly caregiving.

As the UK population ages, more and more employees are finding themselves looking after elderly loved ones. In fact, more people today are looking after an elderly dependent over 65 than a child under the age of 15.

It’s time for employers to seriously think about how they can support this new family dynamic to future-proof the wellbeing and productivity of their workforce.

There are three statutory rights in the workplace that protect and support the needs of those with elderly dependents, with new legislation coming into force next year.

1. Flexible working

The Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Act 2023 will come into force next year. These new rights include:

  • All employees gaining the right to request flexible working from day one of employment (currently, this right is only for those having been in employment for over 6 months)
  • The ability to make a flexible working request twice a year (currently, only once a year)

These new flexible working rights are vital for those providing care for elderly dependants whose needs can change quickly. The ability to adapt their work schedules to match these changes is key for them to remain in work.

2. Carer’s leave

Employees currently have the right to take unpaid time off work to deal with emergencies involving dependants. For those with elderly loved ones, this can often support emergency hospital admissions due to a fall or the progression of a chronic illness.

This year the government recognised the need to offer carers more support with the introduction of the Carers Leave Act 2023. This new legislation, coming into force next year, will give all employees the right to five days of unpaid leave on top of emergency leave to allow them to support their loved ones’ care needs, such as regular doctors or physio appointments.

3. Protection from discrimination

Under the Equality Act 2010, employees who look after someone elderly are protected from discrimination and harassment through ‘association’ with someone protected from direct discrimination by law.

Making carers in your workforce aware of this statutory right can help them feel more confident in identifying themselves as carers at work and enable them to seek and receive the support they need.

As well as these statutory rights, fostering a supportive environment for individuals with elderly caregiving responsibilities involves recognising the unique challenges they encounter and implementing strategies and additional contractual rights to address their specific needs. Many progressive companies, for example, offer paid carers leave or extended unpaid leave to better support carers.

Employers can also play a crucial role by offering educational sessions to help employees identify themselves as carers, often the first hurdle to employees gaining the caregiving support they need.

Consideration should also be given to implementing carer networks and creating role models within the business who have navigated the challenges of elderly caregiving. This approach fosters a sense of community and ensures that valuable knowledge and wisdom of seasoned caregivers is shared within the organisation.

Moreover, offering tailored benefit solutions that deliver practical and financial support with elderly caregiving offer measurable impact for employees regarding financial savings, stress reduction and time savings.

They can also provide employees with the peace of mind that they are doing the best for their loved ones.

In conclusion, providing a comprehensive and proactive approach to support employees with  elderly dependents that combines legal obligations with compassionate and innovative solutions ensures that your workforce remains not only productive but also resilient.

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