A new report from Carers UK finds that the pandemic has significantly increased the number of working carers and that a lack of social care is the biggest risk factor for people not staying in work.
The pandemic turned 2.8 million workers into unpaid carers virtually overnight, meaning one in five workers had caring responsibilities compared to one in seven before Covid hit, according to a new report.
The report from Carers UK found 81% of carers have taken on more care, often because the needs of the person they are caring for have increased, with a lack of social care being the biggest risk factor for people being able to stay in work in the future. One in five (20%) 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.
The report ‘Supporting carers at work: opportunity and imperative’ showed that, whilst some employers are more supportive of carers within their workplace, a significant proportion of carers are at risk of reducing their working hours or giving up work altogether if they do not get the right support measures in place.
72% of working carers worry about continuing to juggle work and care and 77% feel tired at work because of the demands of their unpaid caring role while six out of 10 had given up opportunities at work because of their caring responsibilities.
However, 34% said that their employer had become much more understanding of caring during the pandemic and half (51%) said that their line manager understood caring well and was supportive. Around half (52%) said they had benefited from more flexible working in the workplace. Nevertheless, one quarter (24%) said their employer was not understanding of caring.
Flexibility is essential to keep carers in paid employment, with 53% of carers saying that returning to the workplace after the pandemic would be more challenging, although for some the workplace provides an essential break from caring, according to a new report from Carers UK.
Whilst four in 10 (39%) of all working carers could work from home most or some of the time, 11% said they needed this at work and a further 12% (one in eight) said that if they didn’t have this, they would be at risk of reducing their working hours of giving up work altogether.
One in five (22%) working carers had the ability to take paid Carer’s Leave, 45% said they needed it and a further 13% said they were at risk of reducing their working hours or giving up work altogether if they didn’t have it. 36% had the ability to take unpaid Carer’s Leave.
Helen Walker, Chief Executive of Carers UK, said: “It’s great to see that flexible working and carers’ support within the workplace has made progress, but we can see from carers’ experiences that we’re at a crossroads where it’s still make or break for many. 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.
“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 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.”
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. Carers UK supports this and wants to see employers adopting carer-friendly employment practices and paid Carer’s Leave and informing carers about their rights.