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The European voice for informal carers
Working Carers: Does It Matter Who You Care For?

Working carers: Does it matter who you care for?

Our Norwegian colleagues from Parorenalliansen report on a survey on their Norwegian National Carers Strategy:

Background:

In Norway we got at National informal carers survey in May 2022. It is based on the results of asking informal carers of four defined vulnerable groups about how their caring roles are, and what they are missing. The informal carers care for children and youth with complex conditions, patients with mental health and/or addiction issues, patient with complex and chronical diseases or conditions and frail elderly patients with multiple conditions. It is estimated that these four groups use about 80 % of the health care resources in hospital and municipality care. The informal care they get is vital.

The survey is a result of our Norwegian National Carers Strategy which came in December 2020, with a plan of action og 32 tasks to be completed from 2020 to 2025.

Pårørendealliansen (Norwegian alliance for informal carers) are a working partner in the Carers strategy. We also do our own surveys to build knowledge about main areas important for carers.

Working Carers in Norway

About 66 % of women and 71 % of men in Norway between the age of 17 and 70 are in paid work. The survey above showed that 40 % of carers combining work and care was looking for better possibilities to help them cope with work and their caring role.

But there is little data about working carers in Norway, so we engaged a research company Menon Economics to do a survey to find the situation for working carers:

  • are they “on the radar” in the HR field in the workplaces
  • how are they treated when they ask for solutions to combine work and care?
  • does it matter who they care for (age, diagnosis, conditions etc)

A survey was made and sent to HR managers in randomized Norwegian workplaces. 1282 managers took time to answer the questions and give feedback. The answers came from public and private workplaces, from small companies to big organizations.

Working carers – options today

As many know, we have really good solutions for parental leave. Workplaces are really eager to attract and keep working parents and the government are supporting with paid leave equal for all parents and employers, 10 paid sick leave days to care for sick children up to 12 years old and also with a good coverage of kindergardens and after-school.

Not so in the working carers field. We have the right to 10 days to care for sick people over 18 years, but paid or not is up to the union agreements, and most are not. We have the right to take unpaid carers leave, although some workplaces offers it paid. We also have a right to paid leave for 60 days of palliative care for a loved one, but a lot of people find that 60 days can be too short and if it is used once, you can not apply again.

So how do working carers manage today ?

Working carers – a blind spot in many ways

The survey found these main answers on the questions and hypothesis tested:

 

  1. How do you identify if there are any working carers in your organization?

The result showed that only 1 in 4 workplaces, both private and public, have routines and a systematic approach to support working carers. A small percentage even said they have no arenas were the working carer can come and discuss the situation. This shows the need for speed in this area.

  1. Solutions and possibilities for working carers

Public workplaces have better routines for informing  their employees about the right for 10 days (unpaid) sickdays to care for a loved one over 18. They also tend to compensate a paid carers leave if the working carers applies for that. Otherwise there are no differences between public of private workplaces in how they inform or discuss with working carers about options and solutions

  1. Flexibility is key

The possibility to work flexible hours is the most used benefit, if working carers need solutions to combine work and care. This however is an option if you have a job were that is possible, and the work can be completed regardless off time and place. The right to adjust shifts or change a schedules is possible for working carers in shift jobs but is much less used than offering flexible working hours.

  1. Attitudes to working carers and who you care for

This part of the survey results is very enlightening and also disturbing. The attitude and also understanding for working carers may depend on who you care for:

  • Depending on the age of the person you care for, caring for a young adult 19 years is met with better understanding than caring for an older parent
  • Caring for a person with cancer is met with far better understanding and solutions than caring for a person with addiction/mental illness
  • No significant differences if the working carer is male or female (but a former survey shows that 61 % of working carers are female and they cope with the situation with working part time)
  • Length of caring (one year or four years) has no significant impact on how the employers will offer solutions

Way to go!

As a summary of the survey we can say: in Norway we are on a mission to get working carers on the agenda.  We now have a starting point and some facts to meet both politicians , HR and line managers and the solutions offered today.

Norway is changing demographically and estimated 4 of 9 in the workforce will experience to be working carers. That is the same trend in a lot of European countries. Work-life balance will have a direct impact on businesses and employers all over Europe, and we should really be on a mission to solve this together!

If you want to hear more about the survey, feel free to contact me!

Anita Vatland

CEO Pårørendealliansen/Boardmember EuroCarers

ava@parorendealliansen.no

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