More than 60% of workers with caring responsibilities report impact on mental health

Ibec says Government employers need to provide additional supports

Large numbers of people juggling work and caring responsibilities are suffering from mental health issues and financial pressures, new research published by the employers’ group Ibec shows.

The organisation found that of 1,200 people aged 25-65 almost half said they were a primary carer, with a quarter of those saying the care they provided was to an adult.

Of those who indicated they were carers, 63 per cent were also holding down a job with the majority (73 per cent) admitting they found it challenging to balance the two. A similarly large proportion (67 per cent) said work could be an escape from their caring responsibilities.

Just under a third (31 per cent) said caring impacted on their ability to do their jobs and 38 per cent believed it had affected their careers.


The survey also found 63 per cent reported caring responsibilities having a negative impact on their mental health, with 57 per cent saying they brought additional financial pressures.

A majority of respondents (57 per cent) believed their employer demonstrated flexibility when it came to accommodating caring responsibilities. Only 29 per cent were aware of a company policy regarding the issue, however, with 21 per cent saying they had been given paid leave to help them at any point.

The research suggests Ireland’s ageing population and growing number of people with caring responsibilities is likely to impact on the availability of skilled workers to remain in full-time employment, unless the Government and employers provide additional supports. Most of those affected will be women.

Overall, it suggests 7.7 million women across Europe are effectively excluded from the workforce by caring responsibilities. In Ireland about 80 per cent of those receiving the various carers’ benefit payments are women.

Research conducted by Family Carers Ireland states: “Skilled workers were found opting for under employment, reducing working hours, forgoing career opportunities, while others changed roles to gain employment locally or left their job entirely for more flexibility or to better manage their responsibilities.”

Days in advance of a referendum that supporters say would bring greater State recognition of carers, the report suggests the Government should reappraise the financial supports and allowances provided to those who provide care to family members. It also suggests investing more heavily in the professional sector to provide additional respite and day care resources and support employers with issues such as recruitment and retention.

Employers of workers with caring responsibilities should offer greater flexibility or accommodations where possible to support staff, the report suggests.

“People in Ireland are living longer, and while this changing demographic brings significant opportunities, it also poses challenges due to the increased need for care,” says Dr Kara McGann, head of skills and social policy at Ibec. “Care must be accessible, affordable and responsive to the changing demographic needs of the country.

“There is a crucial role for both the Government and employers to better support individuals in need of care and those providing ancillary care. The current waiting lists for home care and other social services highlight a significant gap between the demand and supply of adequate services,” she says.

“Increased State investment, improved recruitment and retention levels, and a more flexible approach to the availability of supports are necessary. Failure to do so will potentially have significant repercussions for the labour market. Employers also have an opportunity to future-proof their workplaces and ensure that supports are in place to enable working caregivers to remain connected to the labour market.”

Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone is Work Correspondent at The Irish Times