Does your organisation offer flexibility to employees with caring responsibilities?

A recent study of 2,000 UK workers has found that 62% of employees with caring responsibilities have given up career opportunities due to this. In addition, in another survey of 2,004 UK workers, 9% of working carers mostly aged between 18-34 years also feared they might have to give up their job entirely to care due to their employer’s lack of flexibility.

Despite more employers implementing flexible working practices post Covid-19, many working carers are still concerned about their ability to juggle both work and caring. The survey found that they felt overwhelmed and exhausted. However, the CIPD found that when employers support working carers, employees in turn have increased wellbeing and will less likely consider reducing their hours or resigning.

Caring responsibilities were also found to disproportionately affect women, with women more likely to be working carers, work part time and become a carer at a younger age, compared to men. Therefore, it is important that employers work to combat these issues in their workforce by being transparent with employees, offering flexible working where possible and developing clear policy, protocols and guidance in order to support carers in their employment.

Currently, working carers can request flexible working after having 26 weeks continuous service and can also utilise emergency time off for dependents. However, the Government aims to go further and implement a dedicated ‘Carer’s Leave’ in the near future. Consultations for this leave have now come to an end, and it has been established that the Government does intend to implement entitlement to unpaid carer’s leave of up to 5 days unpaid leave a year- from day one of employment.

When this legislation will come into effect is still undecided. However so far, it is known that in order to be eligible for the leave, it is likely:

  1. The definition of the person being cared for will follow largely the definition of a ‘dependant’.
  2. The person being cared for must have a long-term caring need, such as an illness or injury.

The unpaid leave is thought to be used for providing care or making arrangements for care, and the leave can be taken flexibly from one day at a time or five days in one week. Employers will not be able to deny the request for leave but can postpone it. Whilst the specifics will be decided when the legislation comes to fruition, it is extremely beneficial for employers to be aware this right will be brought into place in order for them to begin to prepare.

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