Working with employers in Leeds
to support working carers
Who is a working carer?
A carer is anyone who cares, unpaid, for a friend or family member who due to illness, disability, a mental health problem or an addiction cannot cope without their support. A working carer is someone who has caring responsibilities, but is also in paid employment.
Evidence suggests that the numbers of working carers will continue to increase. This has significant implications for both carers and employers across the city.
Carers Leeds is working with local employers to provide a rigorous and consistent approach to supporting working carers in Leeds. We do this through a number of support mechanisms for both employers and working carers.
Our employer forum
To provide support for working carers, Carers Leeds has partnered with a core group of Leeds employers. These employers are at the forefront of innovation and proactivity in supporting their working carers for the benefit of both the employee and employer.
How many carers and working carers are there?
- According to the Carers Trust there are more than 6 million unpaid carers in the UK. Of these, around 3 million are also employed.
- The number of working carers may be an under representation as employees are often reluctant to talk to managers about their caring responsibilities.
- It is estimated that there are typically 1 in 9 employees in an organisation who are working carers.
- 90% of working carers are aged 30 plus and ages 45 to 54 are the peak age for caring responsibilities.
- 58% of working carers are female.
- An estimated 2 million people have given up work at some point to offer care and 3 million have reduced their working hours.
- In Leeds there are an estimated 72,000 carers and 35,000 working carers.
Working carers tell us that the main issues they face as working carers include:
- Time – the ability to organise and attend appointments, deliveries, and other activities relating to the person they are caring for. Most of these tend to take place during working hours which makes them hard to attend.
- The need to spend time at work on the phone or emailing support services for the person they are caring for.
- Priorities – working out what the priorities for the person they care for might be at any one time, whilst not being physically there with them.
- Distance – the fact that there is often a significant distance from the workplace, the carers home and the cared for persons home. There are also implications of travel methods and timings.
- Guilt – This is about the dilemma over making priority decisions in favour of work rather than the person they are caring for.
- Conflict – between the needs of the cared for and the needs of the job.
- Stress and work – excessive tiredness and stress whilst at work.
38% of working carers say they feel uncomfortable talking about their caring commitments and 35% say that their employers do not understand the caring role.
There are three main reasons why employer recognition and understanding of the needs of working carers is important:
- If employers want to keep their best employees they need to provide an appropriate work life balance strategy. In the case of carers this means that if they do not support and make allowances for workers who are carers, they risk these people leaving the business, with all the consequential loss of talent and cost of replacement.
- Good employers also understand that greater flexibility and support for their people with their out of work issues raises the internal engagement and commitment of the workforce.
- There is evidence that working carers who are not supported have higher levels of stress, higher levels of sickness and lower productivity and output.
- By being seen as a caring and flexible employer, the reputation of the company as an employer of choice is enhanced, allowing it to attract the very best employees.
- Employers have a moral obligation to the workforce and community around them to support their employees where there are challenges and difficulties outside of work which affects their wellbeing at work. This approach is usually reciprocated by the employee who is more likely to “go the extra mile” for the employer.
- Employers have legal obligations under flexible working regulations which can link in with the demands on working carers. There are also potential discrimination risks when not supporting working carers.
Losing good employees, particularly in today’s highly competitive labour market is wasteful and costly.
Unfortunately it appears that most employers are unaware of this issue. Whilst the vast majority of employers have comprehensive policies and support procedures to help employees with young children, a recent report from the CIPD suggests that just 34% of businesses have either a formal written policy or even an informal verbal policy in place to support working carers.
For employers Carers Leeds can help by:
- Providing specialist advice and information on carers
- Clarifying the legal and statutory provision available for carers
- Providing training in house for employers on the needs of carers and tools to support them
- Operating an in house “surgery” for working carers, by our Carer Support Workers
- Coordinating an employers forum to share and develop good employer practice across the city
For working carers, Carers Leeds offers a wide range of information, advice and support. We operate the following support activities:
- A dedicated telephone advice line
- A drop in centre at our Leeds city centre office for face to face support
- “surgeries” for working carers within the organisation, by our Carer Support Workers
- A range of support groups across the city