Carers and Working Families
In 2013 there were nearly 8 million families with dependent children in the UK1. Just over a quarter (26 per cent) of households with dependent children are single parent families and there are 2 million single parents in Britain today2. 60.2% of single parents are in work, up 15.5 percentage points since 1997.3
10% of working age adults, are carers4. An ageing population plus the rise in long term health conditions means that the numbers of carers is likely to increase.
What does this mean for the workplace?
Combined with working for longer, it means that many more employees will be trying to balance working and providing care - whether for children or for adults who rely on them for care. If staff can be supported in managing a sustainable work-life balance they are likely to stay at the organisation and be more flexible in return when needed. A reduction in stress levels is also likely to lead to a more productive and harmonious workforce more generally.
Every effort should be made to support those with responsibilities outside work to achieve a sustainable work-life balance, not only in the interests of equality but also in the interests of staff wellbeing. Getting a work-life balance is important for all staff, but may be a particular challenge for those with busy family lives.
What can managers do to support staff with dependants?
• Where possible or practicable, be flexible – a flexible approach to staff is generally a more inclusive one, as it is more likely to meet the different needs of a team.
• Flexibility around working hours is a critical issue for working parents, especially during school holidays.
• Measure staff performance by means of objectives, rather than time at work – it is not only good management practice to measure staff by what they achieve, rather than the hours they spend at work, but it is also of particular benefit for those who are unable to regularly work long hours.
•Where operationally possible, avoid organising meetings and events outside routine hours; try to take people’s work patterns into consideration when arranging meetings.
• Accept that staff will have fluctuating time and energy levels at different stages in their careers – be mindful of the impact of people’s lives outside work. It doesn’t mean that they is any less interested in work or ambitious about their long term career prospects.
• Make explicit efforts to include all staff in social and team building activities – evening social events in the pub aren’t suitable for everyone (for many reasons).
1 Families with children in Britain. Findings from the 2008 Families and Children Study (FACS) by Natalie Maplethorpe, Jenny Chanfreau,Dan Philo and Clare Tait ( DWP)
2 Lone parents with dependent children, January 2012, Office for National Statistics
3 Working and Workless Households, 2013, Table P. ONS Statistical Bulletin, August 2013
4 Family Resources Survey United Kingdom, 2011/12 June 2013 ONS