Parents and carers: credit where its due
This year the chancellor’s Budget had as many surprises as one might expect ahead of a general election. If the changes to pensions grabbed headlines, the plans to change childcare, with up to £2,000 for working parents, may have made an even greater impact on families.
Around 1.9 million families could be eligible for extra help – a significant bonus for mums and dads struggling to meet some of the highest childcare costs in the world. According to the Daily Telegraph, an annual payment for childcare will be available for all families earning less than £150,000 a year. And last year’s announcements that parental leave may be split more evenly between new parents may also make life a little bit more flexible for families in the UK.
“The changes are good news for parents,” says IHC’s Paul Roberts. “We have not quite reached the point where work emails are banned after 6pm, as they are in France – which may be difficult to enforce in any case – but flexibility in the workplace can have a great impact on staff wellbeing.”
Nonetheless, says Paul, there are currently systems in place that offer significant support to working families, and for many workers they provide something of a lifeline: “Salary sacrifice and childcare schemes remain important to workers,” he explains, “and the budget kept these available.”
But for a growing number of people, it’s not just children that require care around the clock. “If we are talking childcare, we should mention eldercare too,” says Paul. There are around 7 million carers in the UK, according to the charity Carers Trust, and that number is growing – indeed, the charity estimates the number of people over the age of 85, those most often in need of care, is likely to grow by 50% over the next decade, to reach a figure of 1.9 million.
Perhaps a lesser-known employee benefit than childcare vouchers, some schemes provide benefits specially tailored to meet the needs of carers. “There are now services for employees to buy as part of an employee package, or as part of a voluntary benefits option, which can support workers who care for elderly relatives,” Paul explains.
Working carers and working parents have valuable experience that can make them invaluable in the workplace, but reconciling the challenges of responsibilities at home with a positive working practice can be difficult. An imbalance between home and work can be demotivating and make it difficult for staff to perform as well as they might. “Providing much-needed practical and financial help for carers though employee benefits can offer an enormous amount of support to staff, and have a positive impact on individual employees and the workplace as a whole,” says Paul.
For more information on how IHC can help support your flexible working policy contact your consultant at IHC or call Paul on 020 7353 4099