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Thousands of unpaid carers leaving the workplace

Workers are leaving employment in their thousands due to the demands of unpaid care, according to research from Carers UK.

The charity estimates 40% of carers gave up work to provide unpaid care, while 22% reduced their working hours.

Nearly half (49%) of carers who had given up work or reduced their hours had seen their income reduce by over £1,000 per month.

Carer’s Leave Bill – what employers need to know

Helen Walker, chief executive at Carers UK, said: “Many carers want to stay in work – even more so now when the cost of living is so high – but sometimes juggling work and many hours of care can become too much to manage.” 

There are 2 million employees who are delivering unpaid care for relatives or friends who are older, disabled or seriously ill, according to the Office for National Statistics census. 

Walker said employers can support them through implementing flexible working and carer’s leave.

Under the Carer’s Leave Act, which will come into effect in April 2024, carers will be entitled to five days of unpaid carer’s leave.

Unpaid carer workforce grows by 4.3 million each year

Walker said: “Employers can play a pivotal role helping their staff with caring responsibilities stay in work by introducing carer-friendly policies and offering five days of carer’s leave.  

“They will see the benefits too; those employers who have already introduced carer’s leave have seen reduced recruitment costs and improved staff retention and wellbeing.” 

The research found two thirds of carers (67%) were unsure if their employer had started to prepare for new rights under the Carer’s Leave Act, and over a quarter (28%) said they did not know anything about unpaid carer’s leave. 

Insurance firm Phoenix Group has offered. 10 days paid carers leave since 2020.

Claire Hawkins, director of corporate affairs and investor relations and chair of Phoenix Group's colleague carer's network, urged employers to go beyond the Carer's Leave Act.

She said: "In almost every workplace, people are constantly making the difficult choice between work and care - the choice between money and being there for those they love.

"There is a clear business case for making carers leave a paid provision, apart from doing the right thing to support employees.

"Inadequate support for working carers costs UK businesses £8.2 billion every year and having a visible carers leave policy reduces hidden absence, for example sick days.”

Carers UK carried out an online survey between June and August 2023, receiving a total of 10,751 responses from current unpaid carers across the UK.

It's time to give back to working carers