Unpaid carers “urgently” need better employment rights, researchers say

Researchers at the University of Lancaster have called on the government to improve employment rights for workers with care responsibilities.

30 Nov 2018| News

A new report from the Work Foundation, part of the university’s Management School, has revealed that people having to provide 50 or more hours of care per week are 36% less likely to be employed than those without caring responsibilities. They are forced to subsist on benefits that author of the study, Dr James Chandler, declared “inadequate”.

There are currently 6.5 million unpaid carers in the UK and this number is expected to rise to 9 million by 2037. Women or those aged between 45 and 54 are more likely to have to reduce their working hours.

As a result, they experience reduced earnings, savings and pension contributions and poverty and debt are commonplace. Many experience poor physical and mental health, social isolation, and struggle to return to employment due to the impact on their confidence, skills and experience that time away has had.

Dr Chandler said: “The government and employers need to act fast. For years, unpaid carers have picked up the slack, but there’s a real risk that this won’t continue unless changes are made urgently.”

Emily Holzhausen, Director of Policy and Public Affairs at Carers UK, added: “Not only does this make good business sense – helping employers to attract and retain a diverse and skilled workforce – it also improves carers’ health and well-being and strengthens families, communities and our economy.”

In our latest report Rolling out the Manifesto for Labour Law, the Institute of Employment Rights recommends going further than the Conservative Party’s promise to provide a right to request flexible working, and instead providing a day-one right work flexibly unless employer’s can provide a genuine business case against it.

This could not only help those with care responsibilities, but also parents struggling to juggle childcare with work.