Supporting Working Carers is a joint report between the Department of Health (DoH) and charities Carers UK and Employers for Carers. It said supporting carers in work is an “economic opportunity”, not just a problem to be solved.
London School of Economics research estimates that there are 315,000 working age carers out of work in the UK. The report said public expenditure costs of carers feeling unable to work is £1.3bn a year, while businesses are losing skilled employees: “The peak age for caring – 45-64 – is also the point at which people are most likely to have developed the skills employers need to succeed.”
It called on employers to ‘carer proof’ all relevant policies and practices. This includes promoting and enabling flexible attraction and flexible working policies to recruit and retain carers across the public and private sectors.
In addition, employers should signpost employees to information on care and support services that enable them to combine work and care and reduce the number dropping out of the labour market at the onset of caring responsibilities.
Launching the report, care and support minister Norman Lamb said: “Carers do an incredible job of supporting their loved ones but too many feel they cannot combine this important role with the jobs they have in the workplace. This has costly implications for businesses and the economy, as well as for the carers themselves.
“This report is a landmark statement from business and government that more can and should be done to support working carers. There are already many employers who recognise the benefits of helping staff to balance their work and care commitments but we need to spread this good practice to make this the reality in every business.”
As well as reversing the losses incurred, a survey carried out by the DoH and Employers for Carers Task and Finish Group said employers who have policies in place to support carers see improved service delivery, cost savings and increased productivity.
The report said government should look to European examples of supporting carers in work and increasing the care and support market. Local authorities were charged with developing the care market to offer more flexible and affordable support services to allow people to remain in work when loved ones need care.
Commenting on the report, Heléna Herklots, chief executive of Carers UK said: “If carers are unable to get flexibility at work and reliable care services at home they are often forced to give up work or cut working hours. This can spell financial crisis for carers, who face long-term damage to their careers, earning potential and pensions. But businesses and the economy pay the price too, in lost expertise, skills, knowledge and tax revenues.
Ian Peters, managing director of British Gas Residential Energy and chair of Employers for Carers, added: “For business, the message is simple: unless workplaces provide better support for carers they will continue to see growing numbers of their most experienced staff forced to leave work.”
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