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Juggling Work and Unpaid Care Causes Carers to Leave the Workplace

Caring responsibilities for relatives or friends who are older, disabled or seriously ill are having a significant impact on people’s capacity to work and earn a full-time wage, research from Carers UK shows.

There are 2 million carers who are employees – according to the recent ONS Census in England and Wales – but without support from employers, many are at risk of giving up work to care.

40% of carers surveyed in the charity’s State of Caring 2023 survey – many of them caring for more than 50 hours a week – said that they had given up work to provide unpaid care, and 22% had reduced their working hours because of their caring role.

Over half (57%) of people who had stopped working or reduced their hours at work to care said they had done this because of the stress of juggling work and care.

Carers said this had impacted career progression and household finances. Nearly half (49%) of carers who had given up work or reduced their working hours had seen their income reduce by over £1,000 per month.

For Carers Rights Day (Thursday November 23rd, 2023) Carers UK is highlighting new legislation set to give carers further support and protection in the workplace.

The Carer’s Leave Act, coming into force in April 2024 at the earliest, will give carers the right to take up to five days of unpaid carer’s leave. A new law boosting flexible working rights, the Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Act, which could also come into effect in 2024, will also give employees the right to ask their employer for flexible working from day one of their employment.

Helen Walker, Chief Executive at Carers UK, said: “Many carers want to stay in work – even more so now when the cost-of-living is so high – butsometimes juggling work and many hours of care can become too much to manage.

“Employers can play a pivotal role helping their staff with caring responsibilities stay in work by introducing carer-friendly policies and offering five days of carer’s leave. They will see the benefits too – those employers who have already introduced carer’s leave have seen reduced recruitment costs and improved staff retention and wellbeing

Employers can make a valuable difference when it comes to retaining carers in employment, with 53% of carers who are employees saying that flexible working helps them balance work and care. Energy company Centrica estimates that UK companies could save up to £4.8 billion a year in unplanned absences and a further £3.4 billion in improved employee retention by adopting flexible working policies to support those with caring responsibilities.

Yet, over two thirds of carers (67%) were unsure if their employer had started to prepare for new rights under the Carer’s Leave Act, and over a quarter (28%) said they didn’t know anything about unpaid carer’s leave.

Carers UK is sharing recommendations for employers to:

  • Recognise the range of skills that carers gain through their caring role, to retain existing employees and support carers returning to work.
  • Consider becoming early adopters of unpaid carer’s leave before providing five days becomes law – or go one step further and provide paid carer’s leave, making it even more accessible to their employees with caring responsibilities.
  • Adopt Carers UK’s Carer Confident benchmark, run by Employers for Carers, to move towards becoming a carer friendly employer.

 

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