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One in six have taken time off to care for an elderly relative

Employees are calling for benefit providers to offer support and guidance for people with caring responsibilities

Almost one in six (16%) British employees have had to take time off work, or work irregular hours, to care for an elderly relative. This is according to research from Willis PMI Group, part of Willis Towers Watson.

The research found that more than a third of those workers (34%) had to take sick leave to fulfil caring responsibilities.

The study of 1,197 people found that 39% have taken time off as annual leave at some point because of the need to care for a relative, while a third (32%) have taken time off as compassionate leave to help them manage an issue in their personal lives. However, only 21% were granted flexible working by their employers.

More than half (56%) of those polled called for employee benefit providers to offer support and guidance for people with caring responsibilities.

Mike Blake, compliance director at Willis PMI Group, said that an ageing workforce poses a number of significant challenges for UK business.

“Already 30% of the country’s workforce is over the age of 50, meaning many will find themselves needing to juggle work with the responsibility of caring for an elderly relative, often a parent,” he said. “Often employees will find it difficult to ask for help and may try to continue working as if nothing is wrong, which is why it is important for businesses to ensure the appropriate support is in place to avoid an impact on sickness absence.”

He suggested employers look for ways to help staff who may be affected. “Flexible working is a positive step but employers may also consider eldercare benefits,” he said. “These schemes are not yet commonly used but can help to provide everything from extra care at home to assistance with financial planning."

Blake added: “In the face of an ageing workforce the industry will need to work harder to provide creative solutions that meet the needs of both employers and employees."