Carers in the workplace and what employers can do to support

18 June 2018

Further to a Call for Evidence consultation in 2016, an action plan has been published which sets out how the government will improve support for carers in England over the next 2 years. The plan details the action that employers can take to enable carers to balance their caring and employment responsibilities, which include:

  • To increase the number of employers who are aware of caring and the impact this has on their workforce
  • To consider what flexible working practices might help both the employer and employee
  • Creating initiatives to support employers to improve working practices and flexible working to help carers to stay in work

The action plan talks about the many carers who have difficulties balancing work and performing a caring role, and at the same time struggle to make ends meet leading to financial hardship, which puts further pressure on them. Where an employer is made aware of an employee with caring responsibilities, employers can take simple, but effective action to enable carers to balance their caring and employment responsibilities.

Around one in nine working people are also carers (Census, 2011) and indeed the largest proportion of carers are in employment, whether full or part-time.

Through the Call for Evidence, carers said how important they thought it was to support working carers. Many carers spoke about how difficult they found it to balance work, look after their own health and wellbeing and perform a caring role - and in some cases how they needed to give up work altogether because there were no alternatives.

Feedback highlighted the practical challenges of maintaining employment, the positive and negative treatment experienced by employers, and a desire for more flexible working.

Financial support and advice are of primary importance to adult carers. There was evidence of the short and long-term impacts on carers and their finances from having to make compromises around work. Most of the responses that mentioned financial support wanted advice about where to find more information about benefits, grants and financial management.

The action plan seeks to address a number of these themes, through initiatives to support employers to improve working practices and flexible working to help carers to stay in work, as well as to support carers returning to work and improving advice on financial support for carers. Initiatives include:

Benchmarking scheme

  • The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has been working with Employers for Carers to develop a carer-friendly employer benchmarking scheme. The scheme will have three levels and will help employers to measure the robustness of their support arrangements for carers and to identify their outcomes. A pilot will be completed in July 2018.

Employment rights for carers

  • The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) are considering the question of dedicated employment rights for carers alongside existing employment rights (such as the right to request flexible working and the right to time off for family and dependents). An official level working group has been set up to work on this.

Flexible working

  • The DHSC is working with Timewise Foundation on a project to promote best practice in the use of employment flexibilities to support carers. In April, Timewise launched a new Carers’ Hub. Which is a one-stop shop for support, advice and flexible job opportunities to help carers balance their responsibilities with fulfilling careers, as well as offering best practice guidance on flexible working and flexible hiring practices, in order to help employers find and keep talented employees who want or need to work in this way.
  • In the government’s response to the Taylor Review of modern employment practices, BEIS announced a flexible working taskforce which will tackle issues around flexible working that are key to improving the recruitment, retention and progression of informal carers and other groups.

The action plan sets out the detail of how the government will improve support for carers in England over the next 2 years and can be accessed through this link - Carers action plan 2018 to 2020: supporting carers today.


CIPP comment

The Work and Pensions Committee recently published a report which says that there is a strong case for five days’ statutory paid carer’s leave based on the existing statutory leave system. The report recommended that the government introduce this policy when resources allow and provide a full impact assessment for such a policy in response to the report.

We will keep you updated on all the initiatives being consulted upon which may affect payroll and/or employer responsibilities.