Katherine Wilson: Employers need to be confident in supporting carers at work

Juggling work alongside caring for a loved one who is older, disabled or seriously ill can be a tricky balancing act. Nevertheless, many make this commitment, particularly those in their 40s and 50s.

Juggling work and unpaid care: A growing issue, published by Carers UK in February 2019, shows that almost five million people in the UK are juggling work and caring responsibilities; that equates to one in seven members of the workforce.

With an ageing population and the increasing need to work for longer, supporting carers in the workplace is becoming an increasingly important issue. There is a growing need to help carers stay in the workforce, contributing to better financial stability for the carer as well as improved productivity for the employer.

The financial impact of caring can be drastic if the stress of juggling responsibilities with work becomes too much. Employees may, for example, miss out financially if they are reluctant to accept a promotion or pick up extra hours.

Some choose to reduce their hours, meaning their income is limited. Others may take the decision to quit their job to care for a loved one, sometimes entering serious financial hardship. The aforementioned research found that more than 600 people give up work every day to care, taking with them talent and sometimes years of experience.

Carers UK wants to see better workplace rights for carers. We are urging the government to introduce five to 10 days of paid carers’ leave, as well as the option to request flexible working from day one of starting a job.

The report shows that the vast majority (89%) of UK employees believe a supportive line manager or understanding employer would be important to them if they provided unpaid care for a loved one.

Katherine Wilson is head of employment at Carers UK