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Supporting carers in the workplace

One in eight people in Australia (2.7 million) provide unpaid care, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. The replacement value of this care is $1.1b per week.

National Carers Week, 15-21 October, is an annual campaign to raise awareness of these carers by highlighting the challenges face and recognising the contribution they make to families and communities throughout Australia.The campaign also highlights the importance of supporting carers in the workplace.

The impact of caring on absenteeism

Carers are a diverse group of people because every caring situation is different in nature. They can be adults caring for other adults, or parents caring for their ill or disabled children. Anyone can be a carer because people of all ages and circumstances have caring needs, and people of any age can be disabled.

Research by SeventeenHundred found that issues around childcare and eldercare were some of the main reasons for carers to be absent from work and contributed to lost productivity.

This is a significant problem, accounting for almost half of absences of up to six months. The stress and anxiety involved in caring responsibilities can also contribute to mental health problems, another major cause of long term absence from the workplace.

How employers can support carers

Most of the employers surveyed by SeventeenHundred rated ‘flexible working’ as the top way of improving attendance for those with care-related issues. Support at the early stages can make the difference between somebody being able to stay in work and manage their care commitments, and taking an extended period of time off that could be months or even years.

There’s also the option of employee benefits such as Employee Assistance Programs, which provide a range of useful services such as counselling and legal advice.

The future of work and care

An ageing population means that the issues associated with caring responsibilities, particularly for older loved ones, aren’t going away. Indeed, they are likely to become more prevalent.

Anybody finding themselves in the position of carer will need support to cope with the emotional, time and financial challenges involved. A supportive and caring employer can make a huge difference. For employers and employees alike, having services in place that can ease the burden and helping employees navigate government systems is invaluable.