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Why employers should support carers within the workplace

With over 2.65 million Australians supporting a family member or friend who is living with a disability, mental health challenge, chronic condition, terminal illness, an alcohol or drug dependency, or who are frail aged, out of every 9 people you have within your workplace, at least one is a carer.

Due to stigma and a lack of awareness, many Australians do not identify with the term carer, to them they are children, parents, partners or friends, simply caring for someone close to them. Employers are in a unique position within the workplace to bridge the gap for their employees who have caring roles by providing information to free carer support services which can improve overall wellbeing.

Although caring affects all age groups, most working carers are aged between 45-64 years. People in this age bracket usually hold substantial skills, experience and corporate knowledge – and they can be costly to replace. Some estimates suggest that replacing a competent staff member can equal nearly a year of that employee’s salary and with 35% of employed carers holding managerial or professional roles, these replacement costs may be much higher. Failure to retain competent employees costing UK businesses £42bn ($75 billion AUD) a year. (Lynn, L and Phelps R, PwC (2010)

Creating a carer-friendly workplace makes business sense and innovative employment practice. Research shows that carer-friendly workplaces benefit from:
  • Improved staff retention
  • Reduced recruitment and training costs
  • Reduced stress, sick leave and absenteeism
  • Improved staff morale and engagement
  • Increased loyalty and productivity

Carers are more likely to stay with an employer if their needs for flexibility and support are met. Without adequate support, carers report higher stress and work-life strain that impacts their health, wellbeing and productivity at work. Implementing carer-friendly provisions is, therefore, a crucial investment in employee retention.

BT Group is a British multinational telecommunications services company.

Of its 102,000 employees, 75,000 work flexibly. The company found that the average increase in productivity for these workers was 21%, worth at least £5–6 million ($9 million AUD).

Annual staff turnover was also below 4% (where the sector average is 17%) and sickness absence among home workers averages below 3 days per annum.

BT also found that stress related absence reduced by 26% through flexible working alone.

Employers for Carers 2012, the business case for supporting working carers, p.4

There are several measures organisations can make to retain staff and support employees with caring responsibilities. These changes do not need to exceed budgets already prepared, or represent a major change to how an organisation operates. Even a simple change such as identifying carers as defined in the Carer Recognition Act (2010), is a first step in supporting carers in the workplace.

Download: Guide to creating a carer-friendly workplace

To find out more about how employers can support carers at work read “5 things you can put in place to become a carer friendly employer”.