The huge burden of caring responsibilities on individuals and families – and the knock-on effect they can have on businesses – is revealed in new research published this week.
A study carried out for Phoenix Group, the savings and retirement business, Business in the Community and Carers UK, shows that three in five working carers (60%) in the UK had to take annual leave to carry out caring duties in the last year, taking on average six days from their annual leave allowance.
The Government is currently consulting on the introduction of working carer’s statutory rights which includes five days unpaid leave. Phoenix Group is calling for the new legislation to be brought forward and for employers who can, to offer the five days leave as paid “without delay”.
The research carried out for Phoenix shows that 2.5 million employed carers say their employer does not support carers’ needs for additional leave. Three in ten (30%) may have to give up their existing job due to unsupportive employers, while seven in ten 71% support a statutory carer’s leave.
Phoenix CEO and Government’s Business Champion for Older Workers Andy Briggs said that the five days unpaid carer’s leave to have “accelerated implementation”, and for employers that can, to offer these days as paid entitlement.
In the last year, 4.4 million employed carers took annual leave specifically to care for someone else, taking on average six days out of their annual leave allowance, research from Phoenix Group today reveals.
Andy Briggs, Chief Executive Phoenix Group and Government Business Champion for Older Workers, said that employed carers should not have to decide between continuing to work and caring for loved ones.
He said: “Just like working parents, working carers face ongoing challenges as a result of their commitments and need specific support. As we recognise the important role of all carers this national Carers Week and the additional pressure many face due to the pandemic, we call on the Government to accelerate legislation on statutory leave for those carers who want to continue to work, while caring for someone who depends on them.”
Only one in five (19%) UK workers say their employer currently supports carers’ needs for additional annual leave.
Just over half the UK workforce (52%) admit they would really struggle to afford to give up work and care for a loved one, but without greater flexibility and support in the workplace, it’s clear that many feel they may be forced down this route, giving up their financial security in order to care for a loved one. Just over a quarter (27%) would need to go part-time or reduce their hours.
The research also shows that people in the UK are advocates for employed carer’s rights, with the majority (76%) stating that businesses should support those who have carer responsibilities. Seven in ten people (71%) approve of statutory carer’s leave, which would be unpaid in line with statutory parental leave, while over two in five of us (43%) support statutory paid carer’s leave.
COVID has shone a spotlight on the importance of carers, yet over half of UK workers (57%) believe that their company is no more or less likely to support employees who need to manage caring responsibilities in the future. A recent report from Carers UK shows that almost a fifth (17%) of working carers reported either having lost or given up their job or being unable to work because of the social distancing rules.
Carers UK estimates that paid carers leave of at least five days a year could save the UK economy around £3.5bn a year.
Briggs said: “Rights for employed carers have long needed to be formalised. COVID has served to heighten awareness of the support required as many are struggling to balance work commitments with caring responsibilities. We know from our research that time is sacred to carers, with 59% saying they consider more flexible working hours a fair employee benefit. The proposed statutory changes will provide a healthier work-life balance for unpaid carers and employers will be able to retain valuable members of their workforce.
“We are calling on all employers that are able, to offer a minimum of five days paid carers leave, to relieve some of the pressures employed carers face, enable them to continue in current employment and ensure annual leave remains sacrosanct.”
Anne Willmot, Age at Work Director at Business in the Community, said the research makes both a “compelling case” that the introduction of carers leave for working carers is both “urgently needed and has widespread support”.
Wilmost said: “Our own research shows that while 90% of line managers feel confident in responding to the needs of carers, employees report that line managers often lack awareness of what is possible and how to implement policies. The quality of support from line managers often relies on their personal experience of caring responsibilities. We strongly encourage employers to offer paid carers leave and this will particularly help those on lower incomes to continue to balance their work and their caring responsibilities.”
Madeleine Starr MBE, Director of Business Development and Innovation at Carers UK, said:
“This pandemic has shone a light on the huge number of people trying to juggle their work with caring responsibilities – for some, a new caring role they have taken on since the start of the pandemic.
“As carers begin returning to work, it has never been so important that Government and UK employers recognise the challenges they face juggling work and care. For some it becomes too much – every day, 600 people give up work to care. Many more reduce their working hours or turn down a promotion because of their caring role, which has a significant impact on their finances and wellbeing.
“It is crucial that employees with caring responsibilities get dedicated support and we have long campaigned to get them a right to at least five days of care leave, ideally paid. This would support the economy: helping to keep more people in work, and ensure carers’ health and wellbeing is also looked after.”