Research by Carers UK has shown that employers are seeing the health, wellbeing and productivity of their workforces adversely impacted by a shortage of support from social care services.
Two thirds of employers in England said there needs to be more practical assistance from care and support services to ensure their staff with unpaid caring responsibilities are able to stay in work.
With the government’s furlough scheme scaled back but many face-to-face day care services still closed, increasing numbers of working carers are having to reduce their hours, or even quit work to care.
Just as childcare used to be a key issue stopping women from continuing to work, now caring is holding back thousands of people from enjoying a fulfilling career and retaining an income” – Helen Walker, Carers UK
Previous research by the charity has suggested that 600 people give up work each day to care for older or disabled relatives.
Helen Walker, chief executive of Carers UK, said: “When you’re caring for someone and you can’t get the support you need from social care services, it can become impossible to stay in work. Our survey shows that businesses are now having to manage the fallout of this increasingly common dilemma for staff who are juggling work and care for a relative.
“Just as childcare used to be a key issue stopping women from continuing to work, now caring is holding back thousands of people from enjoying a fulfilling career and retaining an income.”
Responding to Carers UK’s survey before the pandemic, 72% of employers said caring and the ageing population will put more pressure on their staff, and 64% believed it may lead to loss of valuable employees if staff give up work to care.
Now during the pandemic, with an additional 2.8 million workers having new caring responsibilities in a matter of weeks, employers are receiving an influx of requests for flexible working hours to accommodate caring responsibilities. More conversations are taking place with line managers about family responsibilities because of Covid-19, with some employers choosing to provide carer’s leave and special leave to cope with the current situation.
Carers and employment
Walker added: “If the government wants to ensure jobs and keep the economy thriving it has to recognise how big an issue caring has become for a huge swathe of workers – and their employers. Investing in social care and delivering an ambitious plan for reform would allow thousands of people to benefit from a job and improve productivity across industries.”
Dave Kirwan, managing director and sponsor of the carers network at Centrica, said: “The carers working at Centrica are often under a lot of pressure juggling their work and care responsibilities and many have seen an increase in their caring duties during the pandemic. We try to do all we can to support them as an employer such as offering flexible working, paid carers leave and peer support through our carers network. But in many cases their working lives would be made far easier with more practical support from social care services.”
Two thirds of employers wanted to see more services available outside of normal working hours and clearer, more accessible public information on how and where working carers and their families can get practical help.
Sarah Boddey, head of diversity, equity and inclusion at Northern Trust, said: “From flexible working to free back-up care sessions that help bridge gaps in care, Northern Trust has a range of carer resources to support our staff with caring responsibilities. We also aim to provide extra practical assistance on top of social care services to help ease the stress and worry experienced by carers in our workplace. These carer-inclusive policies give our employees who are carers the freedom to better balance their careers and caring responsibilities, but there is always more that can be done.”