Carers UK is calling for better employment rights for carers, as research finds more than 600 people a day are forced to quit work to care for older and disabled relatives.
This new research, conducted by Carers UK, reveals that 2.6 million people have quit their job to care for a loved one who is older, disabled or seriously ill, with nearly half a million (468,000) leaving their job in the last two years alone. This is a 12% increase since a Carers UK and YouGov poll in 2013.
The findings also show that more people are caring than previously thought. Almost 5 million workers are balancing their paid job with caring – a dramatic rise compared with Census 2011 figures of 3 million.
The research emphasises the need for better employment rights for carers so that the increasing number of staff with caring responsibilities is able to stay in the workforce. It comes as Employers for Carers, a group of more than 115 employers committed to supporting carers in the workplace and supported by Carers UK, marks its 10th anniversary as a formal forum and launches Carer Confident, the first UK-wide employer benchmarking scheme of its kind. This scheme recognises and accredits UK employers who have built carer-friendly and inclusive workplaces.
Helen Walker, Chief Executive of Carers UK, said, 'Better workplace support for people juggling paid work with caring for a loved one is becoming an increasingly important issue, with a growing need for employers to improve flexibility and, with an ageing population, support people to keep working for longer, contributing to better productivity.
'With 15% of the population now working and caring, there is a real social and economic imperative for UK businesses to adopt carer-friendly workplaces. Carers UK is urging the Government to improve rights for people juggling work and care by introducing a new right of five to 10 days of paid care leave.
'Adequate care and support services are also a key condition for many people’s employment so it’s more important than ever that the Government’s forthcoming social care proposals deliver the high-quality and affordable care services we need now and in the future.'
Carers UK states that, when asked what support from their employer would be most important if combining their job with unpaid care for a loved one, 89% of UK adults said a supportive line manager/employer, 88% said the option to work flexibly, and 80% said five to 10 days paid care leave.
Asked what supportive employment policies are currently available for carers in their workplace, 38% of UK employees said their employer had flexible working but only 12% said they had additional paid care leave. A third said that there were no policies listed to support carers.
Centrica, the parent company of British Gas, which has been working with Employers for Carers since its inception, has seen the business benefits of introducing better employment rights for carers as they have retained employees and reduced recruitment costs.
Simi Dubb, Director of Diversity and Inclusion at Centrica said, 'We are working hard to retain a diverse and skilled workforce through our carers policies which include paid carers leave and flexible working from day one of becoming a carer. It’s the right thing to do and we want to support our employees and share best practices with other businesses. We are also working with Carers UK to urge the Government to introduce more support for carers such as mandatory paid carers leave.'