Almost three-quarters of working carers worry about juggling their job with their caring responsibilities, according to research from charity Carers UK.
Its Supporting Carers at Work survey, released to coincide with Carers Rights Day, the prospect of returning to work after the end of pandemic restrictions has also proven challenging. More than half (53%) of working carers said returning to work would be difficult.
Seventy-seven percent of carers surveyed by the charity said they felt tired at work because of the demands of their caring roles at home. Six in 10 had bypassed opportunities at work because they felt they would clash with their caring responsibilities.
Only around a third (34%) of employers had become more understanding of carers’ responsibilities over the course of the pandemic, the survey found. Just over half said their manager was supportive and understood what they were dealing with.
More than four-fifths (81%) said the needs of the person they cared for had increased – meaning they had to take on care more often.
Flexible working arrangements were available to 52% of working carers. Around four in 10 (39%) were able to work from home some or most of the time. One in eight said they would either have to give up working altogether or reduce their hours without being able to work from home.
A lack of social care support was a key factor in many workers’ challenges to juggle caring with work. One in five said that access to affordable care was essential to them not having to leave their role or reduce hours.
This was reflected in the numbers of employees having to take paid carer’s leave – 45% of respondents said they needed this, but only 36% said they had the ability to take it.
Helen Walker, chief executive of Carers UK, said the situation was “still make or break for many”, despite better support from employers.
“Carers have been providing more care than ever, with very few getting the breaks they need and the support they normally rely on. As a result they are exhausted and in poorer health,” she said.
“There is more that employers can do to support carers. They can throw workers a lifeline like flexible working and carer’s leave that is not only supportive for carers, but makes good business sense, too.”
Up to a week of paid carer’s leave was announced in the Queen’s Speech in 2019 and the government has confirmed it will introduce the new right. However the legislative timetable is yet to be confirmed.
Walker added: “Leading good practice employers have demonstrated that supporting carers and providing greater flexibility is not only desirable, it’s also very doable. And there’s no time to lose. With labour markets tight, it’s essential for business to maintain productivity levels and keep key staff.
“The other part of the equation is greater investment in care services that carers both need and rely on in order to stay in paid work. There is only so far flexible working from employers can compensate for a lack of good quality care services.”