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Employers urged to do more as 600 people a day quit work for caring duties

Nearly half a million people have left their jobs in the past two years to look after an ill or elderly relative, said Carers UK
Senior man sitting on the wheelchair alone

As many as 600 people a day are quitting their jobs because working conditions are incompatible with their care duties, charity research has found.

The report, commissioned by Carers UK, surveyed almost 4,300 adults and called for better support from employers for the 1 in 7 juggling paid work with being a carer.

Up to 2.6 million people have had to leave their jobs to care for a relative who is older, disabled or ill – 468,000 in the last two years alone. This is 12 per cent more than when YouGov carried out a similar poll in 2013.

The public sector was hit hardest by this, with 19 per cent of workers in the public sector dancing between work and care (compared to 13 per cent in the private sector).

A 2014 report from the charity said social services and the NHS rely on the unpaid work of carers, and that “without it they would collapse”.

The same study found that 1 in 3 carers reported losing at least £20,000 off their annual household income as a result of caring; they said the Carer’s Allowance combined with an earning limit did little to prevent financial hardship. Almost half said they had cut back on essentials like food.

Nearly five million people in the workforce care for a loved one, two million more than was recorded in 2011. Figures from the Office for National Statistics showed that people who care for both parents and children are more likely to suffer financially and from mental illness.

Caring duties fall to people aged 45-64 most regularly, which Carers UK says should provide “a strong driver” for employers to support and retain “some of their most skilled and experienced employees”.

When asked what employer support would be most helpful, 89 per cent of working carers said an understanding manager would make all the difference.

Meanwhile 88 per cent said flexible working is important, and 80 per cent said up to 10 days’ paid leave for carers would help them stay in paid work.

Currently only 12 per cent say they are given extra annual leave, and a third said there are no policies in place in their workplace to support carers.

Helen Walker, Chief Executive of Carers UK, said there is a growing need for employers to “improve flexibility and, with an ageing population, support people to keep working for longer, contributing to better productivity.”

Walker added: “With 15 per cent of the population now working and caring, there is a real social and economic imperative for UK businesses to adopt carer friendly workplaces.

“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.”

The report found that only seven per cent of people said unpaid caring had made their paid working life difficult – down from 10 per cent in 2013 – meaning accommodations introduced by employers to support carers in that time had been effective.

There was a 27 per cent decrease in state funding for social care between 2006 and 2016. A funding gap of £18bn is expected to have emerged in the sector by 2030.

Last year, Age UK estimated that a lack of state social care was costing the NHS £500 a minute.

The report coincides with the launch of Carers UK-supported Carer Confident, a scheme accrediting UK employers observed as running carer-friendly workplaces.