Ever heard of the ‘sandwich generation’?  In HR terms it’s relatively new, but it describes a set of challenges that more and more working professionals are facing, thanks to the UK’s increasing ageing population. 

Inevitably, as we get older, our health and physical abilities can start to fail, and we look to our friends and family to support us.  This means that many employees will want and need to spend more time helping their parents, whilst also managing the lives of their own children.  This is the ‘sandwich generation’ and we can expect it to grow as the years progress; but how is it changing HR policies and departments?

A recent story I heard on the radio, you can read the accompanying BBC article here, talked about elder care becoming as common an employee benefit as childcare.  Huge organisations such as NHS England and Sainsbury’s have policies in place, and some 70 companies in total are known to have become members of the group Employers for Carers, which champions this cause.

The story underlined how important it is for employers to get the benefits package right. If organisations do this it will make them more attractive to prospective employees, and produce a much happier and productive workforce. 

Of course a happier workforce means a reduction in absenteeism, and motivated employees that are more engaged with the business.  Whilst we’ve not seen any research directly on it, we wouldn’t be surprised in the future to see a rise in absenteeism linked to the challenges of elder care.

On average, we already live ten years longer than we did in the 60s, and most of us continue working later in order to provide for our retirement.  Benefits can be complex for HR departments to manage, not just in terms of their administration, but ensuring staff make the most of them for the wellbeing of both the business and the individual employee – something that good HR technology can play an important role in for staff and HR professionals.

Benefits packages will continue to change in response to demographic and societal changes – and it will be interesting to watch developments as they unfold over the coming years.