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Employers must recognise different pressures for male and female carers

Women with caring responsibilities are at risk of being driven out of their jobs, while men struggle with low pay, according to research from the Social Market Foundation (SMF)

The Caring for Carers report looked at how the jobs carers do are changing, and revealed the impact caring has on the careers of people in different occupations across gender. It found that the hours of support family carers provide overall have increased, and those who give more care are likely to reduce their working hours or exit the workforce altogether.

The only occupational social class where the proportion of women providing care rose was management and professional roles: 19% of women in professional jobs provide care, up from 18% in 2005. Meanwhile, the proportion of women in 'routine' occupations providing care fell from 22% to 21%.

Financial pressures for both male and female caregivers were also highlighted. The social care sector has typically been associated with low pay, with carers earning 13% less per hour than non-carers. On average women who care earn 4% less than those who do not, while men who care earn 15% less.

The typical (i.e. median) man aged 40 to 64 who does not provide care has a gross monthly income of £2,584. The gross monthly income of a typical man who provides family care while working is £2,167, a monthly difference of £417, or £5,004 per year. For women, non-carers have median earnings of £1,500 while carers earn £1,450. This equates to a £600 difference per year.

Caring has a bigger impact on male earnings because men are more likely to be working full time before taking up their caring duties than women; reducing their hours of work or changing job therefore has a bigger impact on their earnings, the report explained.

The SMF report makes a number of recommendations for the government's forthcoming social care green paper, several aimed at getting employers to offer more support for working carers. These include recording the number of their staff who have caring responsibilities, and implementing a 'care pay gap' report publicly comparing pay rates of staff with caring responsibilities to staff without caring duties.

Large employers should also be required to publish policies for supporting workers who care, the SMF said. Surveys suggest only 40% of large employers have policies setting out how managers should support carers.

The paper also recommends greater use of 'care navigators' to help family carers guide elderly relatives through the complex system of public sector bodies likely to be involved in their overall package of care.

Commenting on the difficulties for women with caring roles, Kathryn Petrie, an economist at the SMF, said: “More women with professional and managerial jobs are trying to combine work with family care. We know that carers are often driven to reduce their hours or leave work altogether, and without proper support for these carers there is a risk that women are increasingly driven out of professional careers, reversing recent progress towards equality in the workforce.”

James Kirkup, director of the SMF, said that the pressures facing men who care should also be recognised.

“While women still do most family care, more men are now caring for relatives and often paying a significant price as their earnings fall. Politicians and employers need to understand that caring affects everyone and take this issue more seriously,” he said.

“Growing numbers of employers want to talk about how they support parents at work, but not enough are helping staff combine work with caring for older relatives. ‘Care pay gap’ audits modelled on gender pay gap reporting could nudge employers to do better and keep more family carers in the workplace,” he added.

The SMF report, Caring for Carers, was sponsored by Age UK and released as ministers prepare to publish a green paper on social care.