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Time off for childcare ‘more acceptable’ than elderly care, say UK working families

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Posted on 15th March 2018.

Elderly couple at home Being a parent can be a challenge in itself – add in the pressures of work and being a caregiver for another relative and it is hardly a surprise that many feel the strain of juggling commitments.

According to the 2018 Modern Family Index, working families in the the UK find it difficult to ask for time off from work when it concerns the care of an elderly adult, or a younger adult in need of support. The findings reveal that it’s believed to be ‘more acceptable’ to request leave from work for childcare than it is for other types of care.

For families supporting another relative while managing the pressures of work, a lack of support from an employer can feel isolating. Yet when a childcare issue comes up, employers appear to be more open to their staff taking time off.

A survey of UK working families

The 2018 Modern Family Index is an in-depth and detailed survey of 2,700 people across the UK who all have at least one child under the age of 13. The study was published by the work-life charity Working Families and employer solutions provider Bright Horizons.

Of those people surveyed, nearly a quarter reported that as well as looking after a child, they also provide some form of regular care for another relative over the age of 18. Such is the commitment that caring for someone else brings, that over 70% of current caregivers invest four hours or more each week caring for another adult, with 28% committing to 10 or more hours.

It’s hardly surprising, therefore, that managing the balance between work and family life becomes a struggle for many.

Taking time off to care

Would you feel comfortable asking for time off work to care for a family member? For many working families in the UK, the answer is no.

A quarter of carers surveyed stated that their employers would be “unhappy” with them taking time off for care reasons, suggesting there might be friction between them, their employer and possibly even colleagues.

Furthermore, current proposals of up to one year’s unpaid leave for caregivers to focus on their loved one could cause family members to feel under pressure money-wise, with a third stating that their finances would be a problem during that time.

However, 69% stated that they would feel able to approach their employer to request time off for childcare.

“Caregiving is often complex and can come with a certain amount of unpredictability, especially when it’s for an elderly relative who is living with a condition like dementia,” comments our CEO, Tim Lee, on seeing the results.

“As the Index has illustrated, almost three quarters of caregivers need a job with some flexibility so they can continue to manage their family’s growing responsibilities.”

The Index also found that with an ageing population, 6% of respondents expect to become a caregiver within the next five years and 70% believe this will be the case in the next decade.

Investigating other care options

Bright Horizons, one of the publishers of the research, is a provider of benefits for partnered companies. Already offering discounted childcare support, Helping Hands has recently joined forces with them to give more families access to quality care at home.

Care assistant Mandy with a customer Denise Priest, Director of Employer Partnerships at Bright Horizons, says, “As our population ages and retirement age increases, caring for both children and adult loved ones alongside work will soon become the norm.

“There’s never been a more important time to take action on this important topic and shift the workplace culture to one that is supportive of all caring responsibilities.”

Tim adds, “We’re excited to be supporting families under the partnership with Bright Horizons, enabling more people to have the option of receiving a high standard of care and support within the home they know and love.”

If you’re struggling to juggle your many commitments, we’re here to help. And with specially trained carers throughout England and Wales, the ideal carer could be right on your doorstep. Speak to us on 0808 274 7734 to discuss the options.

Sally Tomkotowicz