Flexible working ‘should be offered to carers’

Flexible working 'should be offered to carers'

The UK's rapidly ageing population is facing tougher times ahead if the government fails to provide flexible working opportunities for individuals working in the care industry, the health secretary has claimed.

Jeremy Hunt said the country would be trapped in a "lose-lose situation" unless members of staff who look after elderly patients are given more freedom when it comes to their working day.

He claimed helping carers to stay in work was an "economic necessity" for the UK, but few employers are currently offering this type of policy at the moment.

His comments were made after a report warned that England is facing a shortfall in the number of people who are able to give vital unpaid care.

The health secretary said many workers are currently doubling as carers for people with dementia. While the number of people living with this illness is expected to rise from around 800,000 now to more than a million by the end of the decade, companies have been urged to encourage carers to stay in work.

Mr Hunt said: "Too many people feel unable to combine caring for a family member with working – this will only get worse as we face the consequences of a dementia time bomb.

"We know that supporting flexible working for parents is good for business and good for the economy – it is time that the same was recognised for carers."

A growing number of firms are offering flexible working opportunities to staff members in a bid to improve employee morale and limiting the number of sick days they encounter. Technological advancements including conference call technology and cloud computing have made adopting these policies even easier.

Mr Hunt's comments have been backed up by BBC journalist Andrew Marr, who said employees caring for sick or elderly relatives should be given the same rights as new mothers, who are able to reduce their working hours.