Increasing numbers of working mums are taking on elder care responsibilities, according to a Workingmums.co.uk poll.
The poll of over 250 mums found a large number had had to take leave for elder care reasons, although only 3% said they had had to leave their job as a result.
A recent survey by LV= estimates over a million people in the UK are looking after both children and elderly parents. This is in part due to people delaying having children and because children are more likely to still be being financially supported by their parents in their 20s. Cuts in care services are also taking their toll.
Almost half of the over 2,000 adults surveyed by LV= said the financial pressure was challenging, with one in four having had to take out a loan to subsidise family members and 8% having had to increase their working hours or take on a second job (5%).
Around 44% of people in the so-called “Sandwich Generation” have to balance working full-time with spending an additional 19 hours each week caring for a parent or older relative and twice as many hours (39 hours per week) looking after a younger relative, according to the survey.
In recent years elder care has become the main reason in the US for women dropping out of the workforce.
A 2012 AARP Public Policy Institute factsheet, Understanding the Impact of Family Caregiving on Work, found the “average” US caregiver was a 49- year-old woman who worked outside the home and spent nearly 20 hours per week providing unpaid care to her mother for nearly five years.
It says family caregivers are as likely to be employed as non-caregivers. The majority (74 percent) of adults with eldercare responsibilities have worked at a paying job at some point during their caregiving experience. An estimated 61 percent of family caregivers of adults age 50 and older are currently employed either full-time (50 percent) or part-time (11 percent), says the report.
The cost to business is huge. A recent US survey showed a fifth of retirees left the workforce earlier than planned because of having to care for an ill spouse or other family member. Nearly seven in ten caregivers reported making work accommodations because of caregiving. These adjustments include arriving late/leaving early or taking time off, cutting back on work hours, changing jobs, or stopping work entirely.
The AARP Public Policy Institute factsheet estimates US businesses lose up to an estimated $33.6 billion per year in lost productivity from full-time working caregivers,with the average annual cost to employers per full-time working caregiver calculated as being around $2,110 [£1,374].
It’s an issue which is increasingly on the radar of the most progressive UK companies as an issue for staff.
Several run elder care support networks or provide elder care advice. Bank of America Merrill Lynch, winner of the Workingmums.co.uk Top Employer Award for Family Support, runs a support package provided by My Family Care for those who have elder care responsibilities. It says that while the most popular family support service offered through the package is emergency childcare, elder care support is significantly up in the last 12 months. Part of the problem is getting the message out to employees that the support is available should they need it.