Benenden Health has conducted research with full-time and part-time employees, across a range of sectors and regions, to understand:

Whilst the majority of employees with family and caring commitments said that balancing these responsibilities with work was difficult, almost two thirds of respondents (65.2%) said that their employer does offer at least some level of support in this area.

However, when probing further into the types of support offered, the results demonstrated a real mix in the experience employees had when requesting and accessing support and flexible benefits.

Employees don’t feel comfortable asking for flexibility

Employees were asked how comfortable they felt asking for various types of support and flexibility at work, and a significant proportion felt uncomfortable doing so. For example, 36.9% felt uncomfortable asking to leave when they needed to pick their children up from school, and 40.6% of employees felt uncomfortable requesting to work from home.

Arguably, even more concerning (considering many of these employees suffered with stress and mental health problems as a result of balancing work and family commitments) is that over a third of employees (35.2%) felt uncomfortable having time off for healthcare appointments or mental health support.

A lack of understanding from employers

Over a third (35.9%) of respondents said that there are no processes in place at their organisation to ensure their line manager understands their needs, and 17.8% of respondents were ‘not sure’ if there were any processes in place.

Without manager training and processes in place, the experience that employees have depends upon the individual attitudes of their employers. An unsympathetic manager can undo all the great work the company is doing to support these emotive and personal issues.

A lack of clarity and awareness

When asking about the types of support and benefits offered by employers, it also seemed apparent that there is often a lack of clarity and awareness from employees.

For example, 14.2% of respondents were not sure whether any childcare vouchers or financial support was offered by their employer, and 15.2% were unsure if any mental health support or resources were offered.

Moreover, where employees did say that their employer offered benefits, a significant proportion of them found the support difficult to access – for example, a fifth of respondents (20.2%) said this about flexi-time, and 20.7% said being able to work from home was difficult to access.

A problem for employers

If employees don’t feel comfortable asking their managers for the support or flexibility they need, or aren’t aware that it’s on offer in the first place, this could have a detrimental impact – not just on their work and productivity, but also on their health.

There is also little point in employers putting resource into offering flexible benefits and initiatives if employees don’t know how, or don’t feel comfortable enough, to request them in the first place.

Not only can this incur a significant (and potentially wasted) cost for employers, but if employees don’t feel valued and cared for by their employer then these companies are not likely to see the higher employee engagement, loyalty and productivity that is apparent for employers who do support their employees well.

Considering that 22.4% of respondents told us that a lack of flexibility at work made them consider leaving their job, and 22% said that a lack of support for their emotional needs at work made them consider leaving; it’s undoubtedly important that employers effectively communicate the benefits and support systems that are in place, and ensure their employees feel comfortable accessing them.

To understand how you can provide better support and the implication this can have on employees and on your company, read the full guide ‘Supporting employees with family and caring commitments’.

If your company has recently implemented initiatives to support and accommodate employees with caring commitments, share your tips and success stories with us on Twitter or LinkedIn using #workingfamilies.

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