Juggling Work and Care: The Experiences of Working Carers of Older Adults

Juggling Work and Care: The Experiences of Working Carers of Older Adults

Juggling Work and Care: The Experiences of Working Carers of Older Adults

Juggling Work and Care: The Experiences of Working Carers of Older Adults


The emphasis on work-life balance has traditionally focused on childcare yet there is increasing evidence that the issue of supporting working carers of older adults is becoming significant for employers. This report examines how working carers in public sector organisations combine their roles and responsibilities as employees and carers. The report describes the demographic and policy context of juggling work and family life, and details the policies and practices adopted to assist employees with caring responsibilities. The awareness, use and benefit to employee carers of such policies and practices are highlighted through a series of interviews with carers and managers. Policy and practice issues are also discussed. This major new series of reports explores the impact of work on families and examines the way in which employers respond in policy and practice. This series is aimed at policy makers in central and local government, managers in business, academics, students and professionals with an interest in human resource management and industrial relations, and all those with an interest in work and family life.For other titles in this series, please follow the series link from the main catalogue.


Employers are increasingly aware of the need for family-friendly policy and practice to be developed in the workplace in order to support those who have caring responsibilities for older adults, as well as, or instead of, children. a number of factors have contributed to this growing awareness, not least demographic changes, which have resulted in the ageing of Britain’s population, with potentially greater numbers of people needing care and support in old age in the future (Bernard and Phillips, 1998; George, 2001). Alongside this, there are fewer younger people in the population. Together with changes to the nature and structure of work, this means that there is a growing need to recruit and retain women employees – traditionally the major caregivers. the public sector in particular is facing difficulties in recruiting and retaining a variety of staff. Its workforce is ageing and many employees in their 40s and 50s are increasingly likely to have informal caring responsibilities. the competing demands on women have led to work-life issues becoming a concern of public agencies, which are attempting to modernise their traditionally inflexible services to support both older people and carers.

This report presents the findings of a study that investigated how working carers and managers perceived and experienced existing workplace policies and practices designed to help them manage work-life roles. the study was conducted in two public-sector organisations: a Social Services Department (SSD) covering a shire county in the West Midlands and a National Health Service (NHS) Trust located in a large West Midlands conurbation. the focus on these two organisations gave us unique insights into those employees and managers who have both informal and formal roles as carers – dual caring responsibilities. Employer and carer perspectives on what works, as well as what acts as a barrier to the implementation and use of family-friendly policy and practice, were also key concerns. the study was carried out by members of the Centre for Social Gerontology at Keele University over a period of two years, from February 2000 to February 2002. the research has strong parallels with current and recent studies being funded by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and by the Economic and Social Research Council (Evandrou and Glaser, 2001; Bond et al, 2002; Mooney and Statham, 2002; Yeandle et al, 2002).


Demographic trends: caring and work

The demographic trends alluded to above are an important backdrop to our current considerations. in particular, population projections reveal that the numbers of people of pensionable age are set to rise over the next 30 years. Moreover, those aged 75 and over, who are potentially most at risk of dependency, are expected to increase by 70% (George, 2001). Alongside this, the pool of people who have traditionally provided care – that is, women between the ages of 45 and 60 – are precisely those most in demand by employers. This pool is also shrinking and changing due to other factors such as the fragmentation of families through divorce and geographical distance. Despite this, in 1999 2.7 million people combined work with informal care for another adult (DoH, 1999), though the extent to which carers will be available, or able, to continue providing informal . . .

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