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Carers need more flexibility at work, say DWP

Written by: Emma Lunn
More carers in the UK forced to quit work than anywhere else in Europe.

The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) has called for more flexible working arrangements for employees with caring responsibilities.

In a report titled Informal carers and employment: Summary report of a systematic review, ministers examined the impact of caregiving on the ability of carers to work. It found that carers who exit employment are unlikely to return after their caregiving period ends and that more UK carers exit employment than elsewhere in Europe.

The report found that carers between the ages of 50 and 64 are most at risk of leaving their job due to caring responsibilities.

Factors such as how close they are to State Pension age, and the likelihood of being “sandwich carers” (looking after dependent children as well as older parents) are believed to contribute to employment exit.

The lack of access to formal care was found to be a trigger for carers leaving employment, as well as a lack of flexibility.

The report concluded that the most commonly cited workplace need identified by carers was access to flexible working arrangements. In cases where workplace flexibility is not possible, some carers will reduce their working hours or downgrade to a less senior role.

Rachael Griffin, tax and financial planning expert at wealth manager Quilter, said: “The fact the DWP has produced this paper exploring informal carers exiting employment illustrates that government is to some extent taking this growing issue seriously. Worryingly the paper cites a recent study which found that UK Carers are more likely to exit employment to become full time carers than anywhere else in Europe demonstrating the UK’s approach to care is not hitting the mark and we need to fix the root cause.

“While it’s important both government and business explore how to help carers stay active in the labour market its similarly imperative that those who are forced to give up their job to take on full-time caring responsibilities do so without damaging their personal finances and retirement pots.”

Quilter research shows that 71 per cent of those aged 45 to 54 are planning to use their State Pension to fund at least part of their retirement. However, those who aren’t working risk missing out on crucial National Insurance credits towards the State Pension that they will be relying on.

A freedom of information request submitted by Quilter found just 17,388 people were receiving Carer’s Credit at the end of 2018, even though the DWP estimates about 200,000 carers are eligible, with women making up a substantial proportion. The credit could be worth £244 a year in retirement, or £1,220 over five years.

“However, these strategies should only be employed by those that have no other option but to leave the workplace altogether,” said Griffin, “A far better way to tackle this issue is for government and businesses to adopt a more flexible approach to those who might have these kinds of responsibilities and enact policies which protect and give carers an opportunity to care and work simultaneously without fear of reprisal.”

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