Carers’ flexible working rights a mystery to most employees

Millions of people are unaware that carers have the right to ask for flexible working arrangements, a government survey has revealed.

Eight in 10 adults (82%) are not aware that carers are legally entitled to ask their employer for flexible hours, according to research commissioned by the Government Equalities Office.

More than one-third (35%) of the 2,036 people surveyed by research company ICM had caring responsibilities which could make them eligible.

So far, 91% of requests from parents and carers to work flexibly have been accepted.

But Harriet Harman, minister for women and equality, said awareness still needed to be improved. “Over the next two decades the number of people over 85 is expected to double, and the care given to them by their families will be every bit as important as – if not more important than – the care provided by social services and health authorities.

“We do not want people to have to choose between their work or providing important family care, so the question of their ability to work and employers’ ability to respond flexibly is a huge one for the future.”

There are estimated to be about nine million female and seven million male carers in the UK.

Imelda Redmond, chief executive of Carers UK, said: “Millions of families are facing a ‘care crunch’, juggling the need to provide care for an older or disabled relative or friend, but at the same time remain in work for longer.

“Businesses need people to make the most of their skills and experience in the workplace, yet millions of people are at risk of having to leave their jobs because of caring responsibilities and a lack of support.”

She urged employers to make sure flexible working policies were widely communicated and adhered to where possible.

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