Millions of working carers could be forced to quit jobs owing to lack of support, poll finds

Tuesday, 04 August 2020

Three in 10 UK employees would have to leave paid roles if facing new or greater responsibilities at home, with experts calling for more flexibility from businesses.

Millions of working carers could be forced to leave their jobs because of a lack of employer support, a study has warned.

A survey of 2,004 UK adults, conducted by Opinium, found 9 per cent of respondents were working carers who feared they might at some point have to give up their current job to care for a dependant or relative because their employer did not offer enough flexibility.

The vast majority of these (8 per cent of the entire sample) were young people aged between 18 and 34 years.

If extrapolated to the wider UK adult population, this could mean some 4.7 million workers might be forced to leave their jobs as a result of being unable to juggle their hours with caring responsibilities, the survey stated.

The poll, conducted on behalf of Phoenix Group, also found three-quarters (75 per cent) of unpaid carers were currently employed, 43 per cent would struggle to afford to give up work to provide care, and one in five (19 per cent) would try to move to working part time rather than giving up work completely.

It estimated that three in 10 UK workers would be forced to leave their jobs if they had to take on a new or greater caring role, with 18 to 34-year-olds most likely to feel their employer wouldn’t accommodate their need for greater flexibility.

The government is currently consulting on plans to introduce an extra five days’ statutory unpaid carer leave, with this expected to conclude in mid-August.

Andy Briggs, chief executive of Phoenix Group, said the coronavirus outbreak had highlighted the key role carers played, and reiterated the importance of the introduction of statutory care leave to help workers “who struggle daily with the demands of choosing between financial stability and caring for loved ones”.

“In light of Covid-19 it is more important than ever that business leaders embrace greater flexibility around working hours and put solid support in place for employed carers,” said Briggs.

Last month the CIPD released its own research on working carers that found a quarter had considered giving up their job as a result of struggling to cope with balancing paid work with unpaid caring responsibilities.

The study of working carers, conducted with the University of Sheffield, found 44 per cent were struggling to cope with the pressure of balancing their job with caring for a loved one – equating to around 1.6 million people across England and Wales – while 24 per cent were considering quitting altogether.

However, the CIPD’s research also found that those supported by their employer reported higher levels of wellbeing and were less likely to consider leaving employment. “When working carers feel well supported by their employers, they are more likely to experience better wellbeing and are less likely to consider reducing their hours or quitting their job,” said Claire McCartney, senior resourcing and inclusion adviser at the CIPD.

“Employers can address these issues by making sure they have a clear carer policy or guidance, by supporting flexible working and providing paid carers’ leave.”

The CIPD has also called for statutory care leave to be paid – so government funded, with employers able to enhance this.

Source: People Management