Carers are at risk of leaving work unless employers put in more measures to help them says Carers UK.

The charity today on Carers Rights Day has released its research, which shows that despite employers being more supportive, a large number of carers still want to leave the job.

According to ‘Supporting Carers at work: opportunity and imperative’ , it is tough for carers who continue to juggle work and provide unpaid care.

77 percent of unpaid carers said they felt tired at work because of the demands of their caring role. Six out of ten had given up opportunities at work because of their caring responsibilities.

  • 72% of unpaid carers worry about juggling work and care

  • 53% of working carers say returning to workplace will be more challenging

  • 12% of working carers are at risk of reducing or giving up work if they are not allowed to work from home

  • One in five carers at risk of reducing or giving up work without social care

Carers UK says some employers have put in more flexible working measures, since the pandemic, but it is not enough.

51 percent said that their line manager understood caring well and was supportive. Around half said they had benefited from more flexible working in the workplace. However, one quarter said their employer was not understanding of caring.

Whilst four in ten of all working carers could work from home most or some of the time, 11 percent said they still needed this at work.

Meanwhile, 12 percent said that if they didn’t get flexible working, they would either reduce their working hours or give up work altogether.

Carers UK says flexibility is essential to keep carers in paid employment, with 53 percent of carers saying that returning to the workplace would be more challenging. While, for others, the workplace provides an essential break from caring.

One in five working carers had the ability to take paid Carer’s Leave, 45 percent said they needed it and 36 percent had the ability to take unpaid Carer’s Leave.

By far the biggest risk factor to carers leaving work was the lack of social care.  One in five of all working carers said they needed affordable and accessible care otherwise they would be at risk of reducing their working hours or giving up altogether.  Similarly, one in 10 needed services they used to rely on to return or they faced the same risks.

This is not a surprise given earlier research by Carers UK which found that there was either reduced or no support for 55 percent of carers who relied on day services.  Around one third of carers who relied on care workers had had the same experience.

Carers UK is encouraging employers to:

  • Adopt carer friendly employment practices

  • Be early adopters of unpaid Carer’s Leave in the workplace but also go one step further to make it paid Carer’s Leave

  • Make sure that employees know about their rights in the workplace if they are carers.

Juggling work and unpaid care was already a challenge pre-pandemic, with an estimated 600 people a day giving up work to care.  This has costs for carers’ finances in the short and longer term, but it also has an impact on business productivity pre-pandemic with an estimated £8.2 billion which could be gained economically by more supportive working practices.1

With the pandemic, a staggering 2.8 million workers became unpaid carers virtually overnight.  This took the level of caring from an estimated one in seven workers pre-pandemic to one in five.

Things have got tougher for carers with 81 percent taking on more care often because the needs of the person they are caring for have increased.

Helen Walker, Chief Executive of Carers UK, said: “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 added: “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.  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 Government has pledged to introduce up to one week of unpaid Carer’s Leave and is currently consulting on day one rights to request flexible working.  Both have the potential to offer carers the support they need in the workplace. Carers UK is urging the Government to introduce legislation at their earliest opportunity.