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Staff with caring responsibilities need supporting at work, says UNISON

UNISON research shows parents and carers struggle to stay in work because of inflexible working conditions

Parents and other staff with caring duties are having to quit their jobs in some cases because of inflexible working conditions, according to research published today (Thursday) by UNISON.

Nearly half (47%) the survey respondents say they think employers discriminate against employees who are responsible for looking after loved ones. More than three quarters (78%) also believe that staying in a job is harder for carers or parents.

The findings are based on results from nearly 3,000 respondents across the UK, including employees with caring responsibilities (88%) who have either looked after an adult or are a parent, including those with disabled children.

The results highlight how employers and the government are failing to support the estimated nine million parents and two million carers currently in work.

More than three quarters (76%) of carers and parents have been forced to make changes to their careers, according to the survey. Of those who’ve had to do this, some have quit altogether (17%), others have taken unpaid leave (32%), or an hourly pay cut (9%).

The survey illustrates starkly how the careers of carers and parents are hampered by the lack of support, says UNISON. More than one in ten (14%) say they have been turned down for promotion, or decided not to ask for a more senior role.

The vast majority (95%) of people who responded to the survey want employers to do more to help carers balance their job responsibilities with their duties outside work. The same number want the government to provide more support.

Paid care leave and career breaks with a guaranteed return to their job are among solutions backed by those who took part.

The research is to be discussed later today (Thursday) at a parliamentary event to raise awareness about the issues and push for change. MPs Tracy Brabin and Rosie Duffield will be among those expected to speak.

A separate poll and report published last month (September) by UNISON and charity Coram Family and Childcare also showed that employers and the government need to do more to support carers and parents in the workplace.

UNISON and Coram are also calling on the government to introduce ten days a year of paid carer’s leave, the right to up to a year of unpaid leave for carers, free resources and training to support employers.

UNISON assistant general secretary Christina McAnea said: “Parents and carers represent a huge proportion of the workforce.

“Employers have everything to gain by helping them juggle their home and work responsibilities. It’s vital they get the support they need.”

Coram Family and Childcare associate director Ellen Broomé said: “Too many workers are struggling to stay in work while also caring for their loved ones, but our research found plenty of reasons to be positive.

“There are simple changes that employers can make that really help carers and parents, and there is widespread public support for action from government and employers.

“With carers and parents making up a third of the workforce, and numbers set to increase, now is the time for action to make sure everyone can get the support they need.”

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