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The majority of those with caring responsibilities for older relatives have had to reduce their hours, sought a more flexible working or had to leave their jobs, according to a Workingmums.co.uk poll.
The poll shows just 17% of people with caring responsibilities say these have not affected their work. A small majority of those who say their work has been affected say they have had to leave their job. The rest say they have had to reduce their hours or seek more flexibility in other ways.
One woman who has done the latter says: “I help with dad. Although he lives with my sister, I have to be very flexible. It is proving very hard to find something to fit around him.”
The attention of more progressive employers is now shifting towards policies to help carers, with many adopting carers policies, as they recognise that, with more women in the workforce – who traditionally took care of caring responsibilities – and with people expected to work longer before retiring, this will be a key area for the future workforce.
A recent event hosted by My Family Care heard a call for caring to be normalised at work. Caroline Waters, Vice President of Carers UK, called for employers to look at work through a lifecycle lens, saying it was “the responsible and compassionate thing to do”. It means helping employees in their 20s and 30s to prepare for the kind of caring challenges they might meet in their later career and giving them the skills to be able to stay healthy, she stated.
Over the summer a government document suggested women would have to give up work to look after ageing parents unless EU care workers were given priority after Brexit. The story caused a minor skirmish on Twitter as people questioned why it was assumed women would do the care work.
Nevertheless, research in the US shows that caring for elderly relatives is one of the main reasons for women giving up work and predicts this will become more of an issue over the next few years.
According to Carers UK, 58% of unpaid carers are women and one in four women aged 50-64 has caring responsibilities for older or disabled loved ones.