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Supporting employees in the workplace can reap rewards

To help businesses understand the challenges that employees with family and caring commitments are facing, Benenden Health conducted research across a range of sectors and age groups.

Almost three quarters of employees (74.5%) we surveyed said that they find balancing their family commitments with work ‘difficult’ or ‘very difficult’.

This challenge was evident across gender, age and both full-time and part-time employees. The only significant variation we saw was by industry, with employees in legal (42.9%), HR (31.1%) and travel and transport (28.6%) finding the balance very difficult to achieve, compared to only 8.3% of those in sales, media and marketing. A variation across industries is to be expected, however, since flexibility is significantly easier to incorporate into some job roles than others. 

On the other hand, our research demonstrated that even those working in the same sector can have completely different experiences when it comes to employers’ support, indicating that the organisation’s culture and/or their line manager’s attitude are arguably more influential than sector or job role practicalities. 

The best illustration of this was from two interviewees from the same profession, where one reported:

“I’ve had a really tough year and they’ve given me nothing but help. They don’t want to push the stress and the home life balance, so they were absolutely fantastic.  But I think it’s this [organisation]. My last [organisation] were horrible!”.

In contrast, the other stated:

“It was just shocking. I didn’t feel any sense of loyalty or care” when she was refused pay for absence when her child was suddenly sick.

So, it seems that there is a wide range in the attitudes of employers when it comes to support, and some of them can very much be one extreme or the other.

Our survey responses supported this idea too…

The three types of employers existing today

  • 19.7% say their employers are very supportive

  • 65.7% of employers appear to sit in the middle, with employees saying they’re ‘somewhat supportive’ or ‘neither supportive nor unsupportive’

  • 14.5% of employees say their employers are ‘not that supportive’ or ‘not supportive at all’

It’s evident that the level of support that employers are offering differs significantly across organisations.

How supportive employers are reaping the rewards

Most importantly for employers, our in-depth interviews showed the difference in results for companies that are supporting employees well, and those that aren’t.

Supportive employers have loyal employees:

One respondent saidA 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”

“To be honest – I’d rather work for myself, but the fantastic benefits they offer kind of lock you in and it’s hard to give that up”

On the other hand, unsupportive employers can face potential costs of losing staff, higher absenteeism, reduced productivity from stressed workers:

31.5% of employees interviewed have taken a sick day when their employer didn’t provide the support they needed to deal with family commitments. 22.4% said that a lack of flexibility at work made them consider leaving their job, and 22% said a lack of support for their emotional needs at work made them consider leaving.

Find out how you can become a more supportive employer

It’s clear that employers can benefit from taking the time to understand their workers’ circumstances, and providing the appropriate amount of flexibility and support they might need.

To find out more about the implications of these issues for employers and employees, as well as some strategic tips on how you could adopt a more supportive culture in your workplace, read the full guide: Supporting employees with family and caring commitments.

If your company has recently implemented initiatives to support and accommodate employees with caring commitments, share your tips and success stories with us on Twitter or LinkedIn using #workingfamilies


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Benenden Healthcare for Business provides an affordable, high quality, private healthcare solution to support all your employees. With easy setup and no exclusions on pre-existing medical conditions, we want to help make healthcare a standard of employment for everyone, rather than just a perk for the few. See how we can help you develop a healthcare solution that works for your whole business.