Three years ago, the Office of National Statistics (ONS) announced a rise in the number of unpaid carers in the UK. The report indicated an increase of 600,000 between 2001 and 2011 to 5.8 million.

Now, in 2016, the number has risen again to a staggering 6.5 million – that’s 1 in 8 adults who are caring for family and friends.

It’s a great number but it also remains the quiet majority.  Government legislation and workplace culture means it is childcare responsibilities on the agenda (and rightly so), but caring is slipping under the mat. 

The impact of this silent issue is being felt by both carers and organisations – with 1 in 5 carers giving up work to care full-time and organisations losing experienced and talented people.

So how can you find out where the care challenges are for your people, and put caring on the agenda?

If you want to know, ask! 

It’s difficult to know where the pressure points are and who needs help without seeing it first-hand. Often our people might be worried about sharing their additional responsibilities and it’s therefore easy to assume they don’t exist.

To understand what’s really going on, the easiest thing is to ask the question “do you have any caring responsibilities at the moment, or see yourself having them in the future?” during your next employee survey. This should provide an indication of what our people are really thinking and how we can plan for not just today, but tomorrow too.

Find the right solutions

Caring for elders can seem like a complex challenge but many thought the same about childcare. Even still, employers who embraced childcare are continuing to lead the way in employee wellbeing and becoming an ‘Employer of Choice’. It’s been a fantastic achievement and there’s lots of opportunities ahead too.

Supporting those who care for elders doesn’t mean creating a retirement home but it does mean providing information, resources and a culture to relieve the burden.

As a starting point, understanding your options and enlisting experts can have a substantial impact in finding the right solutions.

Maximise existing opportunities

With more working families than ever before, childcare is a hot topic and rightly so. However, the population is ageing and many are becoming part of not just the sandwich generation but the club sandwich generation – caring for children while also supporting ageing parents and grandparents! 

If you currently have an infrastructure for in-home childcare, you may want to expand it for eldercare too. If you don’t have either resources in place, now is a great time to think about it and tackling two challenges at once to productivity.

Company Culture

Last but not least – take a look at your culture.  Our 2016 Modern Families Index highlighted that working families are often hesitant to discuss their family responsibilities – using annual leave and sick leave to mask their many roles – from childcare to adult and eldercare.

Consider your organisation’s culture.  Are people happy to sharing personal issues? Do managers create cultural expectations?  It might be time to open the handbook and begin to make adjustments – big or small – to support our people.