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Employers continue to forge forward with flexible working practices to support carers

11 November 2021
  • 63% said flexible working and flexible leave more embedded
  • 62% offering additional leave arrangements (up from 42% year previously)

New research with employers by national charity Carers UK, supported by Centrica, has found that flexible working and practices to support carers within the workplace have continued to accelerate, become better embedded and many look set to stay as the return to the workplace gathers pace.

Six out of ten employers (63%) said that flexible working and flexible leave arrangements had become more embedded generally in their organisation since the start of the pandemic.  A similar number (62%) said that they had offered additional leave arrangements – an increase from 42% last year.

The number of carers networks within employers has almost doubled in a year, up from 44% last year to a staggering 73%.

In terms of recovery and return it looks like this good practice is here to stay for the longer term as the level of unpaid caring for employees shows no sign of decreasing in the immediate and longer term. 

The majority of respondents (96%) said that they will either provide remote working for all staff, some staff and for particular circumstances once the pandemic is over.  Of these employers, two thirds (67%) said they would do this for some staff and just over a quarter (27%) for all staff. Over 8 in 10 employers (83%) said they had plans to accommodate both flexibility of location and flexibility of hours in their proposals for staff returning to the office/place of work.

The COVID-19 pandemic has seen the number of employees with caring responsibilities rise by around half, with 2.8 million new workers taking on caring responsibilities in a matter of weeks.  It also took the estimated number of carers in any workforce pre-pandemic from around one in seven to one in four, with a staggering one in three in the NHS according to the 2020 staff survey.

For unpaid carers, this flexibility and support is critical to enable them to juggle work and care as services have not yet fully returned and are in short supply.  Carers UK’s State of Caring 2021 survey found that 55% of people relying on day services and one third of people needing support from care workers still had reduced or no access.

Madeleine Starr MBE, Director of Business Development and Innovation, said:

“We are delighted to see so many of our Employers for Carers members embed good practice to support working carers as this will build a more sustainable future for carers within the workplace and it makes good economic sense.

“This research also provides a very solid foundation for the Government’s proposals to introduce Carer’s Leave – up to a week’s unpaid leave and day one rights to flexible working.  Both are clearly built on the sound evidence from employers that this is not only desirable, it is also very doable.

“We know there are risks if we don’t get this right both for business and for carers. Pre-pandemic we know that an estimated 600 people a day were giving up work to care.  With the level of caring across the country still extremely high, and with some labour markets very tight, it makes strong economic sense for employers to support carers within their workforce.

“Employers for Carers will be continuing to work with employers to share good practice and provide resources to support employers who want to be the best. We are delighted to have had the support of Centrica, a founding member of EfC and one of the UK’s leading employers in supporting carers within the workforce, in delivering this report.”

UK employers can receive practical, ‘hands-on’ help to support the carers in their workforces by joining the 250 employers already part of the Employers for Carers business forum.

The full report can be found here

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