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Flexible working ‘main factor in helping carers stay in work’

Carers in the UK are more likely to quit than anywhere else in Europe

Good flexible working arrangements are the most commonly cited factor in helping working carers to stay in work, a review has found.

The report by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP), which analysed several studies, found that if carers are unable to access flexible working, many are likely to reduce their hours or leave their job altogether.

Having a carer friendly employer is also seen as important by carers, as is using a carers register and carers passport, entitling carers to extra emergency leave.

The review reveals the age of the caregiver is a significant factor in a carer’s employment status. Being between 40 and 65 puts them at a significant risk of exiting employment, and being over 50 is a barrier to re-engaging with employment if the carer has previously left their job.

“Evidence in the review has shown the longer a carer has been disengaged from the labour market, the harder it is for them to re-engage with employment. This could be due to outdated skills, their own declining health, or being unable to find appropriate formal care for the needs of their care-recipient,” the DWP said.

The paper cites a recent study which shows UK carers are more likely to exit employment to become full-time carers than anywhere else in Europe.

Rachael Griffin, tax and financial planning expert at Quilter, said while it is important that both government and business explore how to help carers stay active in the labour market, it is similarly imperative that those who are forced to give up their job to take on full-time caring responsibilities do so without damaging their personal finances and retirement pots.

A Freedom of Information request by Quilter revealed just 17,388 people were receiving Carer’s Credit at the end of 2018. The Department for Work and Pensions estimates around 200,000 carers are eligible, with women making up a substantial proportion.

Griffin said the government needs to do better at shining a light on what help is available to carers once they have left the workplace.

“However, these strategies should only be employed by those that have no other option but to leave the workplace altogether,” she argued. “A far better way to tackle this issue is for government and businesses to adopt a more flexible approach to those who might have these kinds of responsibilities and enact policies which protect and give carers an opportunity to care and work simultaneously without fear of reprisal.”