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Why should you consider the needs of your employees with family and caring commitments?

Research commissioned by Benenden Health in the weeks following the outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19) found that 58% of parents whose mental wellbeing has been negatively impacted by COVID-19 pandemic said balancing working from home and childcare was having an impact.

Sadly, some employees feel their employers aren't doing enough, with over a third of individuals (37.8%) saying more support from their employer would help. Download our report for more details and insight into the problems your employees may be facing, along with suggestions on how you as an employer can support their mental wellbeing during this difficult time.

In 2018 we conducted research across a range of sectors and age groups to help businesses understand the challenges faced by employees who have family and caring commitments. This advice is more pertinent than ever right now with so many people juggling the responsibilities of homeschooling, working at home full-time with children present, and older relatives who may be in need of help while shielding. 

This research carried out in 2018 resulted in our insightful guide, which we hope will help you understand the unique needs of your employees who have caring responsibilities, and the potential benefits to your business in managing them effectively, especially at this time. The guide includes:

• In-depth and exclusive research
• Insights into the real struggles that employees and employers face
• Strategic tips on how to support these employees
• How your business could benefit

report on the impact of COVID-19 on mental wellbeing

Download our report on the impact of COVID-19 on mental wellbeing

Learn how to support your employees through the pandemic and beyond

Download now

Who has family and caring commitments?

Often termed ‘the squeezed middle’, these are employees who are caring for either – or both – their children or elderly/sick loved ones.

You can find out more about how to manage a multigenerational workforce and their wellbeing needs by downloading our free employer’s guide today.

Over three million people in the UK now juggle caring commitments (for elderly or sick loved ones) with work, and the number of employed mothers with dependent children in England has surged by over a million in the past two decades, meaning almost three quarters of mothers work part-time or full-time.

Almost three quarters of employees we surveyed for our guide said they find balancing their family commitments with work either ‘difficult’ or ‘very difficult’.

How does this impact employees?

Our research reported that 64.1% of employees have experienced issues with stress as a result of trying to balance family commitments with work. Financial problems were a significant issue for 41.3% of employees, with mental health issues and breakdown in relationships with other family members also occurring as a result.

Here’s a typical dilemma for poorly supported employees:

A) Do I take unpaid leave?

“My son had an injection and I was told I’d have to keep him at home and monitor him the following day too, and I phoned [my employer] and was told ‘you do know you don’t get paid if you take time off for this?’ What do you do?”


B) Do I work and neglect my family’s needs?

“I remember having to put my son in a taxi to take him home from school when he was vomiting, because I couldn’t leave work!”

What does this mean for the workplace?

1. It’s costing employers money

Respondents take an average of 5.3 days off work a year due to family reasons (not including maternity or paternity leave) – which is higher than the UK average amount of sick days!

Based on the UK average salary in 2017 by Office of National Statistics, this equates to a cost of £6181 in lost time for every employee with caring commitments.

If employees don’t feel they have been adequately supported by their employers to meet their family commitments, almost of third of respondents in our research would take a sick day.

2. It can affect employee retention

In fact, 22.4% of respondents say they’ve considered leaving their job due to a lack of flexibility and support from their employer over their family care commitments.

It seems that those who don’t support these employees may experience a high staff turnover in addition to the associated costs of continual re-recruitment.

3. It could affect employee productivity

64.1% of employees surveyed in our report said they suffer from stress as a result of balancing their work and caring commitments. Furthermore, 41.3% of respondents experienced financial problems, and 26.7% had experienced mental health issues.

Not only can high levels of stress impact employees’ productivity and engagement, but it can also put people’s health at risk. One respondent we interviewed, who had to take her elderly, critically ill mother to hospital, said: “I remember the stress was huge – I remember driving up the motorway at a hell of a speed trying to make up the time because I’d been stuck at work.”

How can employers provide better support?

In order to keep engaged employees, and prevent avoidable costs through absenteeism, staff turnover and reduced productivity, companies should take time to understand their workers’ circumstances, and see how they could adopt a more accommodating and supportive culture.

One respondent we interviewed illustrated how this can pay off for employers: “A lot of people commit their whole careers to this company, it’s a business that really has long term servants, so providing flexible working hours and conditions is a core tenet of their employment strategy.”

Two key factors to providing better support are:

1. Auditing and understanding your workplace

Before you can help you need to audit your workplace and find out what types of carers you employ and how they could best be supported.

2. Creating a culture of compassion

Take steps towards creating a more compassionate culture so employees do not get to the stage that they feel unduly stressed or that financial problems are occurring for them.

At a basic level, workplace benefits and support could include:
• Flexi-time
• Working from home
• Childcare vouchers and financial support
• Mental health support
• Extended holiday and leave

Employers should also ensure there is a process in place in the workplace to ensure that line managers understand the needs of those who report to them. Furthermore, training can be offered to line managers in how to help support employees with family commitments.

The attitude of line managers can also be a big factor, with one participant in our research – who felt highly engaged in their workplace – saying: “[my line manager] came to see me and said, ‘you must put your family first’.”

Read our employer’s guide to Supporting employees with family and caring commitments to find out more about the implications for employees and pick up some strategic tips on how you could better support them.

Want more information about managing the impact of COVID-19 in your workplace? Visit our health and wellbeing hub.

Find out how Benenden Healthcare for Business could support your employees

Got a question and want to know more? Call us FREE on 0800 414 8179.

1 -  Calculation based on the 2017 ONS average salary of £29,009 with 252 working days (with 20 days holiday).