Six in 10 unpaid carers have quit work or cut their hours, survey reveals

Businesses urged to prepare for new care leave legislation, as research finds juggling employment with demands at home is leaving workers unable to cope

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As many as two in five (40 per cent) employees with unpaid caring duties are quitting their job, Carers UK’s State of Caring 2023 survey has found.

Another 22 per cent of the 10,751 unpaid carers surveyed are reducing their working hours because of their high levels of unpaid care.

There are two million employees in the UK who are balancing caring responsibilities with their work, according to Carers UK. Many are working unpaid for 50 hours a week alongside their paid job, the charity said.

As a result, half (49 per cent) of carers who had quit their job or reduced their hours faced an income drop of more than £1,000 a month.

Emily Holzhausen, director of policy and public affairs at Carers UK, told People Management: “Caring for an ill, older or disabled family member or friend can be a full-time job in itself.

“Without adequate care and support services, many carers in paid employment are tired, stressed and at breaking point, struggling to take a break.”

Simon Kelleher, head of policy and influencing at Working Families, saying: “Carers who don’t have the support of their employers [may] feel like they can’t perform at their best and, in some cases, feel like giving up work is the only option.

“As well as this, the benefits system is not set up to support carers. By placing an earnings limit on carer’s allowance, working carers are not incentivised to increase their hours.” 

Carers UK is encouraging organisations to adopt the Carer’s Leave Act, which “will raise awareness of carers in the workplace and, we hope, make it easier for carers to discuss their caring role and ask for support at work”, Holzhausen said.

The Carer’s Leave Act, which will come into force in April 2024 at the earliest, will give carers the right to take up to five days of unpaid leave. 

Carers UK’s survey found that two thirds (67 per cent) of carers do not know if their employers have started to prepare for the Carer’s Leave Act coming into force.

Dominic Carter, director of policy and public affairs at Carers Trust, told People Management the Act was a “vital first step” for carers in the workplace, but that it was important to remember the five days of leave were currently unpaid.

He said: “We don’t believe carers should be financially disadvantaged because of their caring role. For that reason, we encourage employers to offer flexible working policies that factor in changing caring responsibilities. 

“By supporting carers, employers can improve job performance and commitment to their organisation.” 

Carter recommended introducing a “key carer contact” in the workplace as well as an internal carers’ group, which could help provide emotional support as well as aiding with information sharing. “Employers should ask if their current policies are carer friendly and consider organising training for managers on carer awareness,” he said.

Charlotte Woodworth, gender equality director at Business in the Community, added: “Employers must provide the flexibility that all carers need to enable them to balance work alongside their caring responsibilities. People shouldn’t have to pick between their jobs and caring: they should be able to do both.”

More than half (53 per cent) of the carers surveyed said flexible working helped them balance their work with care commitments.

Carers UK said the Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Act will be a step forward for employed carers. It is predicted that the Act, potentially coming into force in 2024, will give employees the right to request flexible working arrangements from their employers from day one.

Click here to view the CIPD's guide to creating a carer-friendly workplace