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Many kinship carers say they had to stop working altogether, as they could not get paid leave or flexible working to help them adjust to new family duties.
Over two-thirds of kinship carers say their employers did not offer paid leave or flexible working hours when they became carers, new research shows, forcing many to leave the workforce altogether.
In a survey by the charity Kinship, 68% of kinship carers said their employers did not offer this kind of support when they took on the care of a child. More than four in ten respondents (41%) also said that they had to stop working altogether, while 45% had to reduce their working hours.
Kinship carers are people who raise the child of a relative or friend, when the child’s parents are unable to do so. They are often the child’s grandparents – in the charity’s previous surveys, grandparents have accounted for the vast majority of respondents. Kinship carers also include aunts, uncles, and older siblings.
However, kinship carers do not have a legal right to take paid leave from work when they first take on this role, unlike most people who become parents. More than 162,000 children are being raised by kinship carers in England and Wales.
“These findings show the sharp contrast between workplace support given to adopters and parents, and that which is available to kinship carers,” Lucy Peake, Kinship’s CEO, said in a statement.
“Time and time again, kinship carers tell us that they have been pushed out of jobs and plunged into poverty, because they stepped up to care for a child who was in need of a stable home.”
The Kinship charity is urging the UK government to commit to statutory paid leave for kinship carers, on a par with adoptive parents, as part a national strategy that has been promised by the end of 2023. It is also calling on employers to have policies that will help kinship carers to continue to work.
The charity’s previous surveys indicate that most kinship carers are women, meaning that a failure to keep them in the workforce exacerbates existing issues around the gender pay gap and gender pension gap.
Some employers do provide support in this regard. Cardfactory, a card and gift retailer, recently introduced paid leave for kinship carers. Saga, which creates financial products and holidays for the over-50s, offers one paid week of grandparents’ leave to its staff (this is for all grandparents, not just kinship carers).
Campaigners have also long called for the UK to boost statutory support for parents – working mothers and fathers are often only legally entitled to parental leave pay that is even lower than minimum wage. You can read our most recent coverage of this issue here and here, on our workingmums.co.uk website.