With an estimated 3.7 million working carers in England and Wales, a growing number of people are playing a dual role in balancing their jobs with their caring responsibilities. This came into sharp focus in 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted working lives, exposing the support needs of those who require constant care.

This report, commissioned by the CIPD in the early days of the pandemic and written by the University of Sheffield, examines how working carers combine their caring responsibilities with paid employment, and the difference employers can make by supporting them. Here, we define a carer as someone who helps or looks after a family member or friend who needs care and support as a result of old age, physical illness, disability, mental health problems or addiction.

While this report is based on UK research, the broader implications should be of interest wherever you are based. 

Explore the research insights

Download the full report to examine the in-depth findings and recommendations to help you lay the foundations for a carer-friendly workplace.

Supporting working carers

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About this research

Under the Sustainable Care: Connecting people and systems programme, the CIPD and University of Sheffield conducted a survey of 970 unpaid carers in employment – the first representative survey of working carers in England and Wales.

The report addresses three research questions:

  1. What are the challenges working carers face?
  2. What forms of support do employers provide to working carers, and how does this vary across sectors and types of organisation?
  3. How do these forms of support benefit working carers and the organisations for which they work?

Some of the key findings include:

  • Carers struggle to balance their caring responsibilities with their work commitments. The majority of those surveyed provide care in addition to full-time paid work.
  • Employers can do more to support carers in the workplace. Only two-fifths of working carers believed their employer was carer-friendly, with more than a quarter failing to discuss their caring role with anyone at their workplace, most commonly because they believed nothing would change if they did.
  • Providing carers with support benefits both carer and employer – namely, by improving the wellbeing of employees, translating to reduced absenteeism and better retention for the business.

How COVID-19 has impacted working carers

The demands put on carers became even more acute during the peak of coronavirus and lockdowns. With many vulnerable individuals still at risk, organisations need to be aware of carers' concerns and be as supportive and flexible as possible during what may still be a period of great stress and uncertainty. The situation also presents employers with an opportunity to understand just how many of their employees have caring responsibilities.

COVID-19 presents an opportunity for employers to have honest, open conversations with carers. In addition to the research report, we recommend employers follow our supplementary guidance to put in place proper, sustained support for working carers going forward.

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