Can employers keep caregivers from exiting the workforce?
In this guest article, Petra Tagg, Director of Enterprise at ManpowerGroup, explores whether employers can keep caregivers from leaving the workforce.
The global talent shortage is at its highest for 16 years. Since the pandemic, the talent market has been going through a real shift and we’ve seen many people leaving full-time employment altogether.
Workers want more flexibility and a better work-life balance. Whether that’s for childcare, for their own health, to care for relatives, or even to take on training or volunteering opportunities. Modern workers expect their employers to be more inclusive, driving open and honest cultures where all groups can work together and flourish. But for that to happen, they are having to adapt their thinking and make changes to their recruitment processes.
A recent survey of workers conducted by ManpowerGroup highlights that 45% of workers have caregiving responsibilities that could affect their ability to work full-time. This highlights the significant risk of employee attrition as a result of the pressure of caring on top of a career. The growing responsibility for individuals to provide care for parents and elderly relatives, partners, or children, can also put them under the radar for future employment opportunities.
The competitive job market has historically demonstrated caregiving bias towards women. This bias can impact the confidence of women and other job seekers who require flexibility from their workplace. Employers must take necessary steps to address these concerns and show values that align with different lifestyles.
With such a high volume of workers affected by caregiving responsibilities, it is necessary for all employers to recognise the impact it can have on an individual’s career and financial stability.
Caregivers need attention
ONS estimates that the UK population of people aged over 85 reached 1.7 million in 2020 and will double by 2045, which could further strain the labour market as more people will have to take on caregiving responsibilities.
The social care sector is going through a crisis, with many care homes wrestling with limited financial resources. As recently reported by Age UK, the leading charity for older people, 2.6 million people in England aged over 50 are unable to access care. This includes hundreds of thousands who are stuck on waiting lists for support or even just waiting to have their needs assessed. Exacerbated by a stretched NHS, caregiving could become an even greater burden on our future workforce unless real action is taken.
With the current workforce already stretched and further pressure being added by the cost-of-living crisis and ongoing challenges with economic inactivity – particularly among people over 50 – now is not the time to risk losing even more people from the labour market. It is essential for employers to provide the necessary support to help workers balance their work and personal lives.
Flexibility has become something of a buzzword used to hook potential workers and discuss their general needs, but it’s an area that can often lack true depth. Genuine flexibility demands an introspective look into each part of work, with an independent assessment of workers’ needs.
Other findings from the Future Forces survey show that 24% of those questioned would like more flexibility in their work hours, while 20% wish for more opportunities to learn and upskill, and 18% want fewer days in the office.
When asked about their best source of productivity, 19% appreciate more flexibility in their choice of how to accomplish work. It’s logical that employees don’t want to be micro-managed, but need support in fulfilling their duties, with 29% wishing that their manager better understood the effort it takes to complete tasks.
In the context of caregivers, another way of looking at flexibility is to provide a safe space and to allow workers to be open about challenges. ManpowerGroup’s study shows that 42% of UK employers agree that trustworthiness is among the most important characteristics in an employee. Clear communication and demonstrating empathy are straightforward ways to build trust between employer and employee.
What else can employers do?
Workers with additional challenges beyond the workplace need to be able to remain honest without fearing for their job security. People bound by caregiving responsibilities should be confident in asking for the support they need. While employers must be prepared to adapt to accommodate additional responsibilities, they should also feel confident in communicating any limitations.
Considering the experience and transferable skills of many with caregiving responsibilities, they have likely worked across a number of sectors before falling out of the workforce. These potential workers could bring demonstrable experience, adaptability, and resilience when provided with the support they need to balance caregiving needs and work.
Tailor your training and upskilling opportunities to the needs of those returning to the workplace. Think of their age demographic and how long they have been prioritising caregiving over work. Different demographics have different ways of working and work at different speeds. Evaluate your workplace culture and review your diversity and inclusion strategy to ensure employees of all ages and personal circumstances can work together in a productive and harmonious way.
Although every employee has unique requirements, it is crucial that caregiving needs are factored into broader employer support packages as a regular topic of professional conversation. Don’t assume you know what workers want, ask them. For example, ensuring that caregiving is an agenda point during performance reviews will present an opportunity for workers to highlight any challenges they face and ensure adjustments can be agreed upon.
ManpowerGroup’s research indicates that organisations are more and more accepting that flexibility is key to securing top talent. Provided the person has the necessary skills, 25% of employers agree that they would offer a position to someone who recently stopped working to care for elderly relatives. It is important to demonstrate this inclusivity for a diverse workforce ahead of the interview process.
Caregiving pressures do present the labour market with some difficult choices but those organisations that think differently and can offer the flexibility required will be the most successful in their pursuit of skilled talent.
Organisations must take a stand and be open about caregiving support, no matter what sector they operate in. Showing capacity to support caregiving professionals will help to diversify a stretched workforce, which in turn can have a huge impact on a business’s ability to be more innovative and tap into broader thinking and drive change. Be the organisation you want others to see, value and respect as an employer of choice.