It is estimated that one in seven workers provide unpaid adult care in the UK. This is due to factors such as an ageing population, rise in state pension age and the UK’s ongoing ‘social care crisis’. As Carers UK recently stressed in their report, Juggling work and unpaid care, and as I have highlighted in Hidden Care(e)rs: Supporting informal carers in the workplace, there is a moral and business case in helping carers maintain, or make a return to, employment. Indeed, employers are encouraged to support working carers, and research by Employers for Carers found that the benefits of doing so led to increased staff morale, loyalty, retention rates, productivity and reduced leave and sickness absence. Professor David Grayson noted that it is in the interest of employers to support working carers to address skills gaps and respond to concerns of an ageing workforce.
Data shows that the highest provision of informal/unpaid care is provided by women between the ages of 50 – 64. Women of this age bracket are also seen in careers literature as being at their professional peak. It was for these reasons that in 2016 I interviewed 30 women aged 45 – 65 in Leicestershire in the UK about their experiences of juggling work and care.
Unsurprisingly, participants reported that caring impacted their employment and the progression of their careers with reports of little or no career development, reductions in working hours and responsibilities, career breaks and leaving employment. Interestingly, half of participants considered their caring as a type of work, taking the form of both physical and emotional labour. This is in line with Rebecca Taylor’s extension of the conceptual boundaries of work, beyond paid or unpaid, to the consideration of providing a service, meaning such work could be considered to inform individual careers.
Participants often spoke about the skills they used from their employment history in caring, such as project management. Yet, with a dearth in training for informal carers, they also reported developing skills informally ‘on the job’ while caring, which were of use in their paid employment. Whilst some directly related to nursing and care work, often participants reported a growth in ‘soft skills’ such as communication, negotiation, empathy, patience and resilience. This is important as the author of the Taylor review of modern working practices, Matthew Taylor, noted recently (at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development’s Festival of Work) that the skills of the future are empathy, teamwork and resilience. Indeed, he called for an employability framework that would hold a record of an individual’s formal and informal training and their skill set, including communication and empathy.
We know employers face increasing economic and productivity pressures. How can we ensure that an individual’s whole career development is discussed – including their care work – in order to help address the UK’s skills shortage?
For further information, please contact:
Louise Oldridge – firstname.lastname@example.org