Demographic and labour market trends are raising challenges to maintain the contribution of informal carers (usually family members) to the long-term care for dependents with disabilities or with frailty because of old age whilst at the same time encouraging increased labour force participation of women (the traditional providers of the larger share of informal care). Already, a sizeable percentage of the workforce must balance their paid employment with caring responsibilities and this looks set to increase considerable over the coming years.
Against this background, the objectives of the study are as follows:
- To produce a review of the context for company initiatives for workers with care responsibilities in the EU;
- To design a framework for description and assessment of company case studies of good practice;
- To report developments in four selected countries: DE, IE, NL, UK;
- To carry out 20 case studies of relevant company initiatives in these countries.
The focus of this study is on company initiatives for workers with informal (family) care responsibilities for disabled children or adults. ‘Company’ initiatives are understood as actions implemented at the level of individual employers, including the public, private and third sectors. Workers with care responsibilities for disabled children or adults are termed ‘carers’ for purposes of this study, and are distinct from the more general grouping of working ‘parents’ (who care for children without disabilities). The latter are not the direct focus of this study although recognition and attention is given, where appropriate, to the fact that many workers (the ‘sandwich generation’) have both caring and child-caring responsibilities. Working carers encompass a spectrum, including those caring for children with disabilities, for non-elderly adults with disabilities (typically an adult child or a spouse/partner) and/or for elderly dependants (most commonly a parent or parent-in-law, sometimes a spouse/partner).
Company initiatives of relevance to our topic include both measures that aim to improve work-family balance in general (as long as carers are explicitly included as falling within their scope), as well as measures which are specifically oriented towards workers with care responsibilities for disabled children or adults. Examples of the former type include identification of carers as being eligible and efforts to encourage carers to avail of what is on offer for work-family needs in general. Examples of carer-specific schemes include: specific tailoring and provision of leave, part-time working, flexitime, teleworking and other family-friendly measures in a manner that addresses the particular needs of working carers (i.e. ‘carer-friendly’ measures), attention to the health and wellbeing needs of carers in occupational health services and programmes, care-related supports (information, counselling, referral, cost subsidy etc.), raising awareness of managers and co-workers, care audits, and so on.
The study commenced in late 2009, and will end in July 2010.