More than 600 people a day are having to give up working to provide care for older and disabled relatives, leading to calls for the government and UK employers to increase support for family carers.
Research by the charity Carers UK found that 2.6 million 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 – more than 600 people a day.
The startling figure represents a 13% increase since Carers UK and pollsters at YouGov surveyed members of the general public in 2013.
According to the findings, more working people are providing unpaid care for loved-ones than previously thought, with almost 5 million adults in the UK forced to juggle between their work and caring for family members.
Carers UK say the findings emphasise the need for UK employers to improve the support available for the rapidly increasing number of working people with caring responsibilities.
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.”
YouGov polled 4,254 adults between 28th December 2018 – 4th January 2019, on behalf of Carers UK, and the results were weighted to give a representative sample of all UK adults.
89% of UK adults said a supportive line manager/employer would help them to juggle their work and caring responsibilies, while 88% said the option of flexible working would be helpful and 80% said five to 10 days paid care leave.
When asked about what supportive employment policies are currently available for carers in their workplace, 38% said their employer had flexible working but only 12% said they had additional paid care leave.
A third (33%) of those currently juggling work and care said that there were no policies listed to support carers, and 7% said unpaid caring had negatively impacted on their paid work.
The news comes as Employers for Carers, a group of more than 115 employers committed to supporting carers in the workplace, marks its 10th anniversary as a formal forum and launches Carer Confident, the first UK-wide employer benchmarking scheme of its kind.
The new scheme recognises and accredits UK employers who have built carer friendly and inclusive workplaces.
Centrica, the parent company of British Gas, has been working with Employers for Carers since it was first founded and has introduced flexible working and care leave for its staff.
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 includes 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.”