Carer-friendly employers better prepared to meet changing staff needs through Covid-19 pandemic

Wednesday, 04 November 2020

Employers with established policies in place to support staff with caring responsibilities have been better able to meet the changing needs of their workforce during the pandemic, new research by Carers UK shows.

A survey of 114 members of the Employers for Carers (EfC) business forum found the vast majority have been able to support their staff with caring responsibilities for older, disabled or ill relatives through the pandemic.

The Covid-19 outbreak saw an additional 2.8 million workers take on caring responsibilities for loved ones in a matter of weeks, and the research found that employers received an influx of requests for flexible working arrangements to accommodate caring responsibilities. More conversations are taking place with line managers about family responsibilities as a result of COVID-19.

Previous research by the charity suggests that 9% of working carers have had no choice but to give up work to care since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, employers supported by EfC specialist knowledge and resources were better able to meet the changing needs of working carers during the uncertain and challenging lockdown period, including the growing numbers of carers in their workforces.

Now, as England prepares to enter a second lockdown on 5th November, Carers UK is calling on employers to adapt to carers’ needs and ensure staff are supported to manage their work and caring responsibilities.

The research found that nine out of ten members (90%) put in additional arrangements to support carers’ health and wellbeing during the pandemic.

Three quarters (75%) told Carers UK they had offered additional flexible working arrangements for carers, while half (50%) offered carer’s leave or special leave to help carers manage their caring responsibilities.

In addition, 61% offered different arrangements for staff caring for someone in the shielded category. Of these respondents, 67% enabled such carers to work remotely on other duties, 40% moved them to non-frontline roles, 40% offered them paid leave, 33% offered unpaid leave and a smaller proportion (20%) enabled them to be furloughed.

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

“We are delighted that EfC member organisations have stepped up to the plate during this pandemic and supported the carers in their workforces.

“Juggling work and care is a tricky balancing act at the best of times, but dedicated support from an employer can make all the difference, helping to relieve stress and keeping carers in work. During the COVID-19 pandemic, with carers unable to access their usual support from care services, the flexibility provided by some employers has been essential to enable carers to remain in work.

“COVID-19 has brought into sharper focus the challenges of balancing caring responsibilities with paid work. It has also led to some employers adapting quickly to support their workforce.

“With a huge swathe of people now juggling work and care, it is vital that all employers take note of the importance of supporting working carers and that arrangements implemented during the pandemic remain established good practice, with carers supported to remain in work and thrive.

“The research provides excellent evidence that the Government’s plans to introduce a right to Carer’s Leave is not only desirable, but very possible for employers to implement.”

UK employers can receive practical, ‘hands-on’ help to support the carers in their workforces by joining the 220 employers already part of the EfC business forum.

Read the report: Supporting Working Carers through Covid-19

Source: Carers UK