Carers Wales ask firms to adopt carer friendly practices

November 25, 2021

To coincide with Carers Rights Day, Carers Wales today launched new research Supporting carers at work: opportunity and imperative’ which showed that whilst some employers were more supportive of unpaid carers within their workforce, a significant proportion of workers with caring responsibilities were at risk of reducing their working hours or giving up work altogether if they did not get the right support measures in place.

Carers Wales has also launched today a new Working Carers Guide to advise working carers.

The new research shows how tough continuing to juggle work and providing unpaid care can be with seven in ten (71%) of working carers worrying about continuing to juggle work and care and 76% felt tired at work because of the demands of their unpaid caring role.

Six out of ten had given up opportunities at work because of their caring responsibilities. At a time when the cost of living is rising, carers struggling to balance work and caring may be pushed into financial hardship with increased reliance on the benefits system and can suffer a loss of skills as their career is interrupted.

Some employers have implemented more flexible working measures and become more supportive, but carers’ ability to work is still at risk if there is not more widespread adoption of support.

37% of working carers said that their employer had become much more understanding of caring during the pandemic and over half (53%) said that their line manager understood caring well and was supportive.

Over half (54%) said they had benefited from more flexible working in the workplace. However, one fifth (21%) said their employer was not understanding of caring.

Whilst four in ten (44%) of all working carers could work from home most or all of the time, 9% said they needed this at work and a further 14% (one in seven) said that if they didn’t have this, they would be at risk of reducing their working hours or giving up work altogether.

Flexibility is essential to keep carers in paid employment, with 53% of carers saying that returning to the workplace would be more challenging without it. For others, the workplace provides an essential break from caring.

One in five (22%) working carers had the ability to take paid Carer’s Leave, 46% said they needed it and a further 15% 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.

By far the biggest risk factor to carers leaving work was the lack of adequate social care. One in five (21%) working carers said they needed affordable and accessible care for the person they care for otherwise they would be at risk of reducing their working hours or giving up altogether.

Similarly, 11% needed services they used to rely on before the pandemic to return or they faced the same risks.

This is unsurprising given earlier research by Carers UK which found that 55% of carers who relied on day services were experiencing a reduction in support or no access at all. Around one third of carers who relied on care workers had experienced the same.

Juggling work and unpaid care was already a challenge pre-pandemic, with an estimated 600 people a day across the UK giving up work to care. This negatively impacts carers’ finances in the short and longer term, but it also has an impact on business productivity with an estimated annual benefit to UK businesses of £8.2 billion1 which could be gained by more supportive working practices.

As the pandemic struck, a staggering 2.8 million workers across the UK became unpaid carers virtually overnight. This took the level of caring from an estimated one in seven workers pre-pandemic to one in five.

Things have got tougher for carers with 81% taking on more care often because the needs of the person they are caring for have increased.

Claire Morgan, Director of Carers Wales, said: “We’re very pleased to today launch a new publication “Working Carers Guide: A guide for carers balancing paid work and caring responsibilities”.

Made possible by Welsh Government funding, this resource will help working carers to understand their rights, learn how to tackle common challenges faced by working carers and discuss their caring role with their employer. We would also recommend the guide to any employer looking to understand how they can support their employees with caring responsibilities.”

“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 working carers.  Carers have been providing more carer than ever, with very few getting the breaks they need.

“There is more that employers can do to support carers. They can throw workers a lifeline like flexible working and paid Carer’s Leave that is not only supportive for carers, but makes good business sense, too.

“Leading good practice employers in Wales have demonstrated that supporting carers and providing greater flexibility is not only desirable, it’s also very doable. With labour markets tight, it’s essential for business to maintain productivity levels and retain 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, and we need to see further action on this from the Welsh Government and local authorities.”

Deputy Minister for Social Services, Julie Morgan said: “We recognise the vital role played by unpaid carers and challenge of balancing their own working lives and careers with providing the much needed care and support to others.

"Our ‘Strategy for Unpaid Carers’ and new ‘Delivery Plan’ set out our commitment to unpaid carers of all ages who are in employment, education and training. It is essential we all work together to improve outcomes for unpaid carers, enabling educational attainment and learning, as well as supporting individuals to succeed in their jobs, pursue employment opportunities or re-enter the job market.

"I am pleased Welsh Government funding has enabled the production of this new guide which will give working carers key information about their rights, information and advice.”