Organisations which support staff who care for sick or elderly relatives have called on politicians to put pressure on employers.
Although carers’ lobby groups said employers are responsive to the needs of employees with children, there is a long way to go for those with other caring responsibilities.
Chief executive of Contact A Family Francine Bates, who spoke at a fringe meeting at the recent Conservative Party Conference in Bournemouth, said there has not been enough focus on carers of adults or disabled children. “We need employers to recognise we have a right to enjoy family life,” she said.
Her organisation works with families who have disabled children. “At the moment the work culture is such that it’s extremely difficult. There’s a long way to go.”
Imelda Redmond of the Carers National Association said, “Employers are probably not doing enough, but they are beginning to focus on retention and recruitment.
“More and more employers are coming to us wanting to know how they can recruit and retain their experienced staff, or recruit staff from the older population.”
There are 5.7 million carers in the UK, of whom 70 per cent are of working age. Among those of working age, 2.5 million work full-time, 1.5 million work part-time and 1.5 million do not work.
But public services receive the lion’s share of the blame for deterring carers from going to work. Both carers’ organisations said services provided by social services and the NHS are not sufficiently flexible, making it hard for individuals to combine caring and working.
The Carers National Association recently conducted a pilot scheme in an unnamed firm for carers wanting to work.
Redmond said, “The company found that those employees were really productive, with low sickness rates. Employees said they didn’t take days off because they didn’t know when they would need the company’s help.”
By Helena Jones