Family life has always had its challenges. But in a post-pandemic society, the stresses and strains of everyday life are magnified - particularly for those who have care obligations within the family unit. Read on as we address the issues of family care and the impact they have on the working environment.
The New Norm
For many in the UK, everyday life revolves around cost-of-living hikes and the soaring costs of childcare. COVID-19 did little to help the economy, and there are those still recovering from the fallout, both medically and financially. The cost-of-living crisis is still a significant concern and one that shows no signs of slowing down.
In a recent survey released by the Office of National Statistics a staggering 89% of people declared the cost of living as an important issue for the UK. Furthermore, over 50% of participants reported a rise in their cost of living compared to the previous month.1
And for those with children the costs do not stop there.
In 2022, children’s charity Coram reported that the average price for a child under two years old to attend nursery on a part time basis was £138.70 per week.2
Fast forward to 2023, and the charity’s latest survey reveals “Childcare costs are rising at almost triple the speed of last year at a time when families are already struggling to meet the costs.”3
The balancing act of paying childcare costs has left some parents sacrificing their basic needs to make childcare requirements a reality. In 2022, a UK survey revealed ‘one quarter of parents surveyed said that they had ‘to cut down on necessary expenses such as food, heating or clothing to afford childcare.’ The survey also revealed 13% of single parents had to rely on food banks due to the rise in childcare costs.4
The availability of childcare is also a primary concern. Key findings in the latest Coram Family and Childcare Survey highlight “significant decreases in the sufficiency of childcare in England”5 with an increase in local authorities confirming demand outweighs availability.6
The Sandwich Generation
For adults with children who also care for elderly or disabled relatives, also known as the ‘sandwich’ generation, there are more issues to contend with.
The charity Age UK recognise people in England are living longer and projects a rapid increase of those aged over 85, which is the age range most in need of care.7
With life expectancy increasing, many individuals are now finding themselves in a dual caring role and dealing with the pressures this brings.
In 2019, Carer’s UK research revealed ‘trying to find the right care for an older relative was harder and more stressful than finding good quality childcare.’8
For many in this situation, time management and the pressures on mental and physical health can prove overwhelming.
In 2019, The Office of National Statistics stated, “almost 27% of sandwich carers show symptoms of mental ill-health while caring for both sick, disabled or older relatives and children.”9
For the family carer, juggling multiple responsibilities and the constant need to be everywhere at once can often lead to mental health issues, feelings of isolation and guilt.
The dual carer may also have to contend with the following issues:
- Excessive travelling due to appointments or travelling between homes if the elderly/disabled relative does not live in the same household
- Additional time required to assist the relative with day-to-day activities, household management and bills
- The balancing act of dual care with work and homelife can prove physically and mentally exhausting
- For the carer, prioritising their mental and physical health can be tricky. There is a need to remain in good health for those who rely on them. However, regularly putting others’ needs ahead of their own can harm their health, affecting diet, sleep and energy levels
- Strain on relationships - finding the time and energy to invest in other relationships outside of the carer roles can prove difficult and both friendships and work relationships can suffer as a result
Managing family care is a complex and delicate matter and can impact upon everyone involved; this includes the workplace, should the caregiver also be in employment.
The Impact On The Workplace
Left unaddressed, the issue of family care can cause a domino effect on the working environment, leading to:
- Decreased productivity
- Increased absenteeism due to caring needs
- Sickness absence due to a decline in the employees mental or physical health
- Strain on work relationships due to stress
- Added pressure on team workloads due to absenteeism
Family care responsibilities can even result in retention issues, as some employees feel they have no choice but to leave the workplace entirely.
In discussion of the gender pay gap, A Pwc report on ‘Women in Work’ stated ‘ a lack of affordable childcare contributes to the motherhood penalty by forcing many women to leave work to care for children.’10
While it’s clear there is a pressing need to assist those with a family care conundrum, what can employers do to support their people?
What if there was a way for employees to solve their family care needs and remain an active and integral part of the team?
Introducing Family Care, an easy to integrate employee wellbeing benefit that provides inclusive support for all family care challenges. With a range of family support services covering childcare, eldercare and even pet care. This comprehensive solution matches employees with their individual needs whilst retaining their freedom of choice.
Family Care enables employers just like you to provide a dedicated budget that supports employees with their cost of care. But the benefits don’t stop there… By implementing this meaningful solution in your organisation, you can:
- Connect staff to a dedicated search function that offers the widest choice of childcare, eldercare, and pet care providers in the UK
- Enable employees to find and book care with ease
- Provide access to useful resources offering advice, guidance, and educational tools
- Connect your people to family care specialists and expert advice, supporting both physical and emotional care needs
- Give employees membership and partnership discounts
As the employer, you can customise the employee benefit while enjoying access to real-time data that enables you to track care usage and absenteeism.
Family Care gives a helping hand to employees when they need it most. It enables employees to access care which is suitable for their individual needs. The employee benefit also provides them with essential tools to support and restore their mental health and wellbeing.
Want to find out more and take the next step in supporting your employees today?
Together, let’s make family care a priority.
- Office for National Statistics, Public opinions and social trends, Great Britain: 23 August to 3 September 2023, 8th September 2023, https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/wellbeing/bulletins/publicopinionsandsocialtrendsgreatbritain/23augustto3september2023#:~:text=When%20asked%20about%20the%20important,and%20the%20environment%20(63%25).
- L Coleman, S Shorto and D Ben-Galim, Coram Family and Childcare, Childcare Survey 2022, Page 11, https://www.coram.org.uk/resource/resource-coram-family-and-childcare-survey-2022/
- M Jarvie, S Shorto, L Kunwar Deer and E Goddard, Coram Family and Childcare. Childcare Survey 2023, Page 35, https://www.coram.org.uk/resource/childcare-survey-2023/
- Pregnant Then Screwed Charity Press Release, 2022, https://pregnantthenscrewed.com/one-in-four-parents-say-that-they-have-had-to-cut-down-on-heat-food-clothing-to-pay-for-childcare/#:~:text=One%20in%20four%20(25%25),%25)%20of%20all%20single%20parents.
- M Jarvie, S Shorto, L Kunwar Deer and E Goddard, Coram Family and Childcare. Childcare Survey 2023, Page 35 https://www.coram.org.uk/resource/childcare-survey-2023/
- M Jarvie, S Shorto, L Kunwar Deer and E Goddard, Coram Family and Childcare. Childcare Survey 2023, https://www.coram.org.uk/resource/childcare-survey-2023/
- C Reeves, A Islam T Gentry, Age UK, The State of Health and Care of Older People in England 2023, July 2023, Page 6, https://www.ageuk.org.uk/globalassets/age-uk/documents/reports-and-publications/reports-and-briefings/health--wellbeing/age_uk_briefing_state_of_health_and_care_of_older_people_july2023.pdf
- Carers UK, Carers UK comments on new findings that one in four sandwich carers report symptoms of mental ill-health, Press release, 14/01/2019, https://www.carersuk.org/press-releases/carers-uk-comments-on-new-findings-that-one-in-four-sandwich-carers-report-symptoms-of-mental-ill-health/
- Office for National Statistics, 14 Jan 2019, More than one in four sandwich carers report symptoms of mental ill-health https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/healthandsocialcare/healthandwellbeing/articles/morethanoneinfoursandwichcarersreportsymptomsofmentalillhealth/2019-01-14
- PwC, Woman in Work 2023, Closing the Gender Pay Gap for good: A focus on the motherhood penalty, Page 23, www.pwc.co.uk/services/economics/insights/women-in-work-index.html