England and Wales have 3.7 million working carers. Among them, 2.6 million combine caring with full-time employment and 1.2 million provide 30+ hours of unpaid care each week1.
Supporting Working Carers: How employers and employees can benefit2, a new report from the Sustainable Care team written by Annie Austin and Jason Heyes, published in June 2020 by the CIPD, is a major step forward in the evidence base on this increasingly important topic.
The report presents detailed analysis of data from a representative sample of working carers in England and Wales. Based on a questionnaire developed with partners in Canada, Japan and the UK, it explores the experiences and attitudes of working carers who do, and who do not, receive support at work to help them manage unpaid caring alongside paid employment. It shows how this affects their mental wellbeing, how they feel about their caring role and their job, and the decisions they make.
Some of its findings are shocking …
The study found that, due to combining caring with their paid job:
- 1 in 3 had reduced their working hours (30%) or turned down a job offer or promotion (36%)
- Almost 9 in 10 said their stress/anxiety levels were affected by needing to combine work and care
- 1 in 4 (24%) had considered giving up their paid job
- 1 in 8 (13%) experienced daily difficulties in fulfilling their caring responsibilities
- 1 in 4 (24%) had needed to work in the evening to get their job tasks done
- Almost half (46%) had used their annual leave to provide care
- Women were LESS likely to get paid leave to provide care than men (15% v 25%)
But there was good news too …
Employer-provided support mitigates the effects of combining work and care on wellbeing. When paid carers’ leave, flexible working and other guidance and support were available, working carers clearly benefitted. Compared with those who lacked support at work:
- Mental wellbeing was better (high or medium for 43%, compared with 30%)
- More had ‘very good’ general health (16%, compared with 11%)
This is good news for employers, and a guide to how they should respond. Compared with employees who said they lacked such support at work, working carers with supportive employers were:
- Less likely to have considered quitting (24%, compared with 29%)
- Fewer had found it difficult to concentrate at work (62%, compared with 77%)
- Fewer had turned down a promotion, or chosen not to apply (35%, compared with 44%)
What actions are needed now?
These findings make important reading for employers, managers, supervisors and employees. Working life will improve for millions of employees and businesses across the country if the study’s evidence-based recommendations are adopted. We hope it will be widely used as a guide to action:
Employers should adopt best practice in working carer support; it’s in their own interest to do so
Government needs to level the playing field and require all employers to offer paid care leave
Employees should talk to their managers, co-workers and union representatives about the challenges they face; many solutions exist and are often simple to implement.
1 See the full report for details of how these figures were calculated.
2 We thank the CIPD, which funded aspects of the study and published the report, for collaborating with us on this study. We also thank our main funder, the ESRC, for the award that makes our programme possible. We hope the issues the report raises will be widely discussed among policymakers, HR professionals, managers, TUs, employees and others.