Research from the University of Sheffield and Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development suggests employers need to take more action to support carers


University of Sheffield study calls for more support for carers

University of Sheffield study calls for more support for carers

 June 25, 2020

Recent research by the University of Sheffield released with the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) suggests that a quarter of working carers are considering giving up their jobs, while nearly 1.6 million struggle to combine employment with caring responsibilities.

The study, based on a representative sample of unpaid carers in paid employment in England and Wales, found that one in three – approximately 1.2 million people – provide 30 or more hours of care per week, the equivalent of a full-time job on top of their paid work. Around 700,000 people combine full-time employment with full-time care.

Calling on employers to offer more support

The team from the University of Sheffield’s Sustainable Care: connecting people and systems research programme, led by Professor Sue Yeandle, are calling on employers to offer paid carers leave, flexible working hours and mental health support. Their research indicates that working carers with a carer-friendly employer are less likely to have taken unpaid leave or sick days to provide care, or to have considered leaving their role due to caring responsibilities.

The study also demonstrates that almost half (46 per cent) of carers had used their annual leave to provide care, and 15 per cent had used sick leave. Nearly a third (30 per cent) had reduced their working hours, while 36 per cent had refused a job offer or promotion, or decided against applying for a job, because of their role as a carer. Meanwhile, women were more likely than men to find it difficult to combine caring with their job.

However, more than a quarter (28 per cent) of working carers had not told anyone at their job about their additional responsibilities – with 39 per cent of these thinking it would not change anything.

Among working carers who said their employer provided no form of support, paid leave was the most commonly desired policy, followed by flexitime and the ability to work at home on some days.

Professor Yeandle says employees face challenges combining work and care

Professor Sue Yeandle Sheffield

“This report addresses a vital issue of our time. Growing numbers of employees provide regular care for relatives or friends who need their support because of serious illness, a disability or problems that affect them in daily life," Professor Sue Yeandle, Director of the Centre for International Research on Care, Labour and Equalities at the University of Sheffield, comments.

“In recent months, as working lives have been disrupted by a global pandemic and the support needs of older people and those with chronic health conditions and disabilities have been drawn to everyone’s attention, the crucial importance of working carers’ dual role has come into sharper focus. Evidence from around the world has previously shown that, without support, the challenges employees face in combining work and care are stressful and debilitating, and can lead workers to quit their jobs, with lifelong consequences for incomes and careers. Working life, and the circumstances of employees, organisations and businesses, can all be improved by responding to the evidence-based recommendations in this report.”

The report, Supporting Working Carers: How Employers and Employees can Benefit, was written by Dr Annie Austin and Professor Jason Heyes as part of the Sustainable Care: connecting people and systems research programme based at the University of Sheffield. Funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, the programme is a multi-disciplinary project exploring social care arrangements in the UK and around the world.

The findings follow previous research from the University of Sheffield that found unpaid carers are twice as likely as the rest of the general public to have relied on a foodbank during the COVID-19 pandemic.


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