Most of us will provide unpaid care at some point in our lives, and with women having a 50:50 chance of providing care by the time they are 46, working carers are becoming a significant proportion of the working population. At the height of the pandemic, Carers UK estimated that more than a quarter (26%) of all workers were juggling work and care. Without the right support, the stress and pressure of trying to balance the two can force people to leave their jobs. Indeed, before the pandemic two million people had given up work to care and three million had reduced their hours.
Increasing numbers of employers are recognising the importance of supporting carers in their workforce to continue working and retain talented staff. But we are at a critical turning point for workplaces and it is now essential that employers maintain flexibility in the hours and place people work, alongside the carer-friendly policies they have introduced.
While some caring crises will be sudden and need an immediate response, other situations will be more ongoing. Flexible leave, alongside flexible working arrangements, are especially helpful in enabling employees to manage caring crises and planned or longer term arrangements such as supporting a family member who is coming out of hospital or who is at the end of their life. The ability to take paid carer’s leave enables carers to manage appointment and assessments without having to use their annual leave.
Many employers find actively promoting carer-friendly policies and support available is crucial to encourage take up, as well as having senior level champions. These measures help embed carer friendly policies across the organisation.
With our ageing population and longer working lives, increasing numbers of people will continue to juggle work and care. We simply cannot afford to lose this talent from the workplace. It is vital that employers look to support working carers.
Katherine Wilson is head of employers for carers at Carers UK