'Sandwich carers' need more employer support

People who look after both children and older relatives are struggling to cope with these caring responsibilities alongside their jobs, according to BHSF

Its research, which surveyed 1,000 employees with caring responsibilities, revealed that many people who fall into this category of ‘sandwich carers' are at breaking point. Almost half (44%) said they often find managing their responsibilities hard, and 16% said that it’s almost too much to cope with.

Women were more likely to feel the strain of this role, with 19% of female sandwich carers reporting that they are struggling to cope compared with 11% of male sandwich carers.

The research also highlighted the impact caring responsibilities have on the health of sandwich carers. More than half (52%) said it has affected their physical health, and almost as many (47%) said it has affected their mental health.

There are approximately 1.3 million workers with multiple caring responsibilities across the UK, according to the Office for National Statistics.

Brian Hall, chief commercial officer at BHSF, highlighted that the number of sandwich carers may rise as more people have children later in life.

“Our research shows just how difficult it is to manage the demands of caring for children and elderly relatives while holding down a job. As people put off having children until their thirties or even forties, and life expectancy continues to increase, more and more employees will become sandwich carers,” he said.

Hall said these employees need support from their employers to manage their situation and still be productive at work. He added that employers should consider ways carers can access help outside of working hours.

“The number of employees on the brink is startling, and employers need to take note. Employees are in desperate need of support that extends beyond the workplace and can be accessed as and when they need it – which is often outside of working hours. Because the needs of the workforce are so varied employers should consider wellbeing benefits that bring together multiple resources and access to specialists," he said.

Madeleine Starr, director of business development and innovation at Carers UK, said that both policymakers and employers should play a part in addressing the pressures carers face.

“Juggling work and care for a loved one can be a tricky balancing act and many sandwich carers report feeling stressed, having little time to spare, and a lack of support to help them manage. With one in seven of the UK workforce now combining paid work and care, employers have an increasingly important role to play supporting their staff with caring responsibilities," she told HR magazine.

“By providing carers with the right to at least five to 10 days of paid care leave and introducing flexible working from day one of starting a job, employers can see better retention and productivity and also support families who are caring. Adopting carer-friendly policies and practices, such as staff carers' networks and signposting carers to information and advice about caring, can also go a long way to helping sandwich carers stay in work if they wish to.”