A new report shows the impact at work and at home of being a working carer and highlights the benefits of employers providing support.
Around one in four are considering leaving their job because of the difficulties of combining work and care, according to a new report which highlights the benefits to employers of providing support.
The report, based on a survey of 970 unpaid carers in employment undertaken by the University of Sheffield for the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, shows women carers are more likely not to get support from their employers despite being more likely to be carers.
It says almost 3.7 million employees in England and Wales are working carers, with seven in 10 being in full-time work and over a quarter – around 700,000 people in England and Wales – providing at least 30 hours of care per week on top of a full-time job.
The research found 44 per cent of working carers reported that they found it difficult to combine their paid employment and caring responsibilities, with women and workers in the public sector more likely to say that they find it hard.
Half of working carers feel that their caring responsibilities affect their job, for instance, their concentration levels. Thirty per cent of working carers had reduced their hours of work because of their caring role. Thirty-six per cent had refused a job offer or promotion, or decided against applying for a job, because of their caring responsibilities.
Twenty-nine per cent of working carers said that they were considering reducing their working hours, and 24% were considering giving up their job because of their caring role.
Moreover, 13 per cent of working carers said they experience daily difficulties in fulfilling their caring responsibilities because of the amount of time they spend on their job. Only 19% of working carers said that they never found it difficult to fulfil their caring responsibilities because of the amount of time they spend on their job and only 14% said that they never came home from work too tired to do some of the caring tasks that need to be done.
Many had used annual leave for caring duties. In the 12 months preceding the survey, 46% of working carers had used their own annual leave to provide care and 24% had worked in the evening to make up hours spent caring. Twenty-three per cent had worked at weekends to make up hours spent caring. Fifteen per cent had taken sick leave to provide care.
One in five working carers had taken paid leave to fulfil their caring responsibilities, with 25% of men being able to take paid leave to provide care, compared with 15% of women.
Most working carers said that their employer was aware of their caring role, but they rarely spoke to Human Resources or Occupational Health about it. Twenty-eight per cent had not talked to anyone at work.
Thirty-nine per cent of those who had not discussed their caring role said that this was because they did not believe anything would change. Twenty-two per cent said it was ‘not the sort of thing that people talk about where I work’.
When asked about support from their employer, the most frequently mentioned form was being able to use the telephone, or private time for private calls (available to 24% of working carers). Unpaid care leave was available to 19% of working carers, but only 9% were entitled to take paid care leave.
Twenty-five per cent of working carers were entitled to use flexitime and 22% said they were able to work at home on some days. Men said they found it easier than women to take an hour or two during work to attend to family or personal matters. Forty per cent thought their employer was carer-friendly with men more likely to say this.
A minority of those who worked for employers with carer policies said they didn’t know about them. For those who had no support, paid leave was the most popular option, following by flexitime – most particularly working from home.
The report shows the benefits of providing support. It says mental wellbeing is higher among working carers in organisations that provide support: among those working in organisations that provided support for working carers, 43% reported high wellbeing compared with just 31% in organisations providing no support. Moreover, working carers who believe their employer is carer-friendly are less likely than other working carers to leave, to experience difficulties at work, to turn down promotions and to take sick leave or other leave.
The report calls for carers to be recognised at work and the benefits of providing support widely communicated. It calls on employers to develop support in collaboration with working carers and to be flexible. It says employers should provide all carers with the right to take appropriate periods of paid
carers’ leave and should seek to find out why women feel least supported and what can be done to address this. Other recommendations include better communication of support, a focus on supporting line managers with caring responsibilities to encourage a trickle-down effect and greater flexible working.