The main issues
The number of carers in Manchester who are also in paid employment is likely to be around 20,000¹. Day-to-day, working carers can face all kinds of challenges, for example:
- if the person they care for suddenly becomes more seriously ill, the carer may need to leave work unexpectedly and/or take time off at short notice
- the carer may need to take the person they care for to appointments at the GP or hospital
- growing numbers of carers are ‘sandwich carers’ – looking after young children and caring for one or more older family members
Where an employer has not put things in place to identify and support carers in the workplace, carers often find they have to give up work because of their caring role. This also leaves the employer with costly recruitment process.
“I need my salary. I am the main earner in our family. I managed well for the last 5½ years working 30 hours a week. Now having to do 37 hours a week is unmanageable and I may lose my job.” – Carer
What’s in place already
- Manchester Carers Network has contributed to a regional programme on carers in employment (see resources below)
- Manchester City Council, Central Manchester NHS Foundation Trust and others are major employers reviewing how they identify and support carers in their workforce
- We are working with DWP to explore support both for working carers and for carers who would like to undertake paid work but face barriers to doing so
What you need to know
Around 1 in 9 of the workforce have caring responsibilities. Over 2 million people have given up work at some point to care for loved ones, and 3 million have reduced their working hours². Without recognition and information or support at work, many carers reach a point where they feel unable to continue ‘juggling’ their caring role with their employment. So they leave their job. This not only means a loss to the economy – Age UK showed a cost of £5.3 billion a year to the economy in lost earnings and tax revenue and additional benefit payments (Age UK, 2012) – but also a cost for employers. The employer is likely to lose staff expertise and incur the costs of recruiting new staff.
For those who do sustain employment, 1 in 5 UK adults have felt that their work was negatively impacted upon because of their caring responsibilities, and more than 1 in 4 reported that caring had taken a toll on their work (Carers UK, 2011).
Caring is often a hidden issue in the workplace and consequently carers can be poorly supported. A Carers UK survey (2013) showed:
- Nearly 22% of working carers said that their employer was not supportive of their caring role.
- 25% said that, although their employer was sympathetic, they did not offer support.
- More than 12% did not have flexible working available to them.
Yet supporting carers in the workplace is good for business. Centrica estimates potential cost savings of £2.5 million through increased staff retention and £4.5 million through reduced unplanned absenteeism³.
Already 90% of working carers are aged 30 plus – employees in their prime employment years. The peak age for caring is also 45-64 when many employees will have gained valuable skills and experience. With fewer young people entering the job market – and in the current economic climate – there has never been a more important time to focus on the benefits of retaining skilled workers rather than incurring the costs of recruiting and retraining new staff. (Employers for Carers/Carers UK)
Things you should or could be doing
- Use the Top Tips for Employers (see Resources below)
- Carers Trust suggest:
Recognise carers in your workforce
Unlike parents, many carers are invisible in the workforce, reluctant to discuss their personal situation and unaware of the support available to them.
Quote “carers” specifically in policies and other documentation.
Nominate a key contact in the workplace.
Set up an internal carers group or forum – to allow carers to meet together occasionally – for mutual support, information sharing and to raise the profile of caring in the organisation. Depending on the type and structure of your organisation, this might be a face to face or virtual group. Allow time for the carers you employ to attend the group.
Offer practical support through your employment policies and practices
Caring is often less predictable than child-care. Flexible working policies need to include the flexibility to change arrangements as caring responsibilities change. They also need to recognise the possibility of emergencies arising.
Implement flexible working policies compliant with the current law, and allowing as much flexibility for change as is consistent with business needs. Review all your employment policies to ensure they are ‘carer friendly’ – for example, does your policy on stress management recognise the complex linkages between work related and home related stress? Also organise training for managers in carer awareness.
Ask carers what will help them to successfully combine work and caring
The people who know best what will really make a difference to their ability to do a good job for you and keep up with their caring responsibilities at the same time, are the carers themselves. There are often small and inexpensive things employers can do to help – such as:
allowing employees to leave mobile telephones on in meetings in case of emergencies
flexing start and finish times to help people deal with caring commitments before and after work
allowing people time and access to a telephone to check on the person they care for from time to time while working.
Surveys, focus groups and employee carer groups are all useful ways to find out what the carers you employ would value.
Develop a specific Carers in Employment policy setting out the various ways your organisation will support carers in the workforce.
The impact of caring can be much better managed and controlled if carers have good information about services and support available.
advertise contact information about the local Carers Support Organisations
share Carers Trust website links
provide resources to support the internal Carers Group
hold information events
forge formal links with service provider organisations like Manchester Carers Network
(adapted from Carers Trust)
- Contact us (link to contact form) and tell us what you are doing to support carers in your workforce
¹The 2011 Census showed 3 million carers juggling paid employment with caring – around half of all carers. The same Census showed 42,000 adult carers in Manchester.
²Carers UK and YouGov (2013) as part of Caring & Family Finances Inquiry UK Report (2014)
³Centrica Best for Carers and Eldercare, Top Employers for Working Families Special Awards 2015