Family-work balance: Supporting the sandwich generation in the workplace
As people live longer, work longer, and have children later in life, workplaces are faced with new challenges in terms of support for working parents. There is also a growing group of employees who are sandwiched between the demands of caring for both their children and elderly parents.
Known as the “sandwich generation”, these employees are typically middle-aged, in their 40s or 50s, while there are also employees in their 60s who have grandparenting responsibilities and living parents in their 90s.
To support the sandwich generation in the workplace, the Australian Industry Group (Ai Group), an employers’ organisation whose members employ over 750,000 people throughout Australia, urged employers to be aware of the carer’s leave and flexible working arrangements under Australia’s Fair Work Act 2009, as well as any relevant provisions under contracts and enterprise agreements. Employers are also encouraged to educate employee on relevant workplace policies and regularly check in to ensure the support is effective.
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Furthermore, investment in training can help leaders navigate these discussions and offer solutions. They may consider establishing a support group for employees managing family responsibilities to support each other. Employers should also be creative with flexibility and provide emotional support through an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP).
Employers have a responsibility to reasonably support employees in balancing their family needs, the Ai Group emphasised. However, employees also have a responsibility to consider the impact of their requests on their team and business. Striking a balance between support and flexibility may lead to a positive work environment for all employees and help retain valuable employees and improve productivity.