One in four working carers consider leaving job


A quarter of working carers have considered giving up their job as they are unable to balance their career and their responsibilities at home.

This is according to the CIPD and the University of Sheffield, which found many working carers are not being supported effectively by their employers and often feel they need to reduce their working hours or refuse opportunities for career development.

Of the 970 working carers surveyed for the organisations’ Supporting working carers: How employers and employees can benefit report, 44% are struggling to balance their work and caring responsibilities.

Twenty-eight per cent of carers who work full-time also provide at least 30 hours of care per week – equivalent to a second full-time job, the report says. Overall, this equates to 700,000 employees in England and Wales who combine full-time work with full-time care.

More than a third (36%) have turned down a promotion or refused a job offer because of their caring commitments, while 30% have reduced their working hours.

Their employers may be unaware of their pressures they face, as 28% say they have not spoken to anybody at work about their caring responsibilities – and they have rarely spoken to anybody in HR or occupational health. Asked why this was, 39% say they did not believe speaking to their employer would change anything.

Claire McCartney, the CIPD’s senior resourcing and inclusion adviser, said: “Conversations about health conditions and vulnerable household members during the coronavirus crisis mean that employers, some for the first time, are gaining a true understanding of just how many of their employees have caring responsibilities. Others may still be in the dark. We are urging employers not to miss this opportunity to talk to staff about their caring commitments.

“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. 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.

“Line managers need to feel supported to help empower carers to manage their work and caring commitments with simple and practical adjustments. This will not only benefit carers, but also their employers who may otherwise struggle to retain staff or see a drop in productivity.”

The CIPD has been calling for five days’ statutory paid carers leave to be introduced to help address some of the financial issues that many carers face.

Just 9% of carers say their employer offers paid leave for caring responsibilities. Almost half (46%) say they have used their annual leave instead.

The report recommends that employers:

  • Develop policies and practices, in consultation with working carers, with the aim of becoming a ‘carer-friendly’ employer
  • Provide all carers with the right to take appropriate periods of paid leave to fulfil their responsibilities
  • Consider and address why women are more adversely affected by combining work with care than men
  • Provide counselling and wellbeing support for carers
  • Publicise existing policies to increase employees’ awareness of their existence
  • Consider flexible working policies such as flexible start and finish times and opportunities for home working.

“It’s time to ensure all employers offer such support, and that every employee can access paid carers’ leave. It makes good sense for business. It makes sound economic sense. And it makes good sense for the individual wellbeing of 3.7 million working carers,” said Professor Sue Yeandle from the University of Sheffield.

The report was published as 26 major employers, including Santander, TSB and Centrica, signed a letter calling for flexible working improvements to ensure parents do not have to choose between caring for their children and their career.

According to the charity Working Families, women are 47% more likely than men to have lost or quit their job since the lockdown began, often as a result of taking on extra childcare while schools were closed.

The organisations that have signed the letter are calling on the government to close a loophole that allows employers to refuse parents the opportunity to work flexibly “if they have a good business reason for doing so” or if the individual has been employed for fewer than 26 weeks.

“This wording is not fit for purpose. It is too vague and allows employers to turn people down if they are worried, for example, that the changes will cost too much, will affect productivity or will simply be too complicated to work out,” said Working Families chief executive Jane van Zyl.

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