Employment support for carers Contents

4Government as a model employer

48.We have considered how changes to policy and legislation can support carers to stay in, or enter, work. We have heard resounding evidence that any such changes must be matched by a cultural shift in attitudes towards carers in employment.118 The Social Care Institute for Excellence, a charity, told us this is a necessary step to “alleviate the stigma that many carers have reported”.119 We were widely told that the Government must lead by example as an employer.120 We were pleased to hear that this view is shared in Government: the DWP told us “the Civil Service believes it should lead from the front”.121 Several examples of best practice that came to light during our inquiry were from within the Civil Service, but the Government could go further as a model employer.122

Flexible working

49.The Government told us it aspires to a cultural shift in attitudes which results in flexible working being considered normal.123 Working Families said that requiring the employee to take the initiative in requesting flexible working was counter to this objective:

As long as we continue to rely on employees, often those with caring responsibilities, to request flexible working, we will continue to see post hoc changes made to roles to accommodate flexibility as a ‘favour’ to an employee, rather than a way to do business.124

It would be preferable for jobs to be routinely advertised as being compatible with flexible working. However, research by Timewise, a jobs board that specialises in roles that are part-time or can be performed flexibly, found that just 10% of jobs earning £20,000 or more in 2017 were advertised as being “open to flexibility”.125 This is a substantial barrier to prospective employees who wish to have flexible working arrangements, including many carers.

50.Laurence Beckett, People Business Partner at Aviva, told us that vacancies in his company are advertised as suitable for flexible working by default. Managers actively must justify a role not being advertised with flexible working options.126 Working Families have developed the Happy to Talk Flexible Working strapline, to be used alongside job advertisements, to advertise an employers’ commitment to flexibility and reassure potential applicants. This has been backed by the FSB.127 As part of Happy to Talk, employers were expected to consider exactly how a role could be performed flexibly to accommodate the needs of both employer and employee. Working Families told us that “applying flexibility on a vacancy-by-vacancy basis [ … ] is more effective in recruiting candidates than general or blanket statements about being a flexible employer”.128

Accessing information at work

51.People can find themselves in a caring role very suddenly. In this moment, one of the greatest challenges is accessing the right advice and information.129 We heard that while some employers might have policies that can benefit carers, those policies are often not easily found. Sarah Jackson told us:

When something happens in your life, you do not go and look at the staff handbook, which is wodges thick. You just try to deal with the situation, and for carers that often means throwing up your hands and saying, “I’m off”.130

North Tyneside Council found that carers find it difficult to see how generic carer-friendly policies might apply to them.131 We also heard that carers’ experiences can vary enormously from one line manager to the next.132 Liz Abrahams, a carer, told us “as good as the company is at putting [support for carers] in place, it depends on your manager”. This can be due to differing levels of awareness about carers’ circumstances.133

52.We repeatedly heard that carers would benefit from employers having a dedicated policy that pools all information relevant to carers.134 This could be supplemented by a “carer’s passport”, a tool for recording conversations about an employee’s caring circumstances and associated adjustments or flexible working arrangements.135 This passport would be held by the employee, removing the need for repeat conversations as they move from one manager to the next. The same witnesses caveated these policies, however, on two grounds. First, people often do not identify themselves as carers, particularly at work, and they may therefore be unlikely to associate themselves with policies and information targeted at “carers”.136 Olga Budimir, a carer, told us:

The thing is that you don’t think of yourself as a carer [ … ] you are just helping your parents out or your child. You are just doing what is right and you don’t think of yourself as a carer.137

Second, mandatory policies risked being mere “tick box” exercises if they were not accompanied by cultural change in the workplace.138 Government had an important role in leading this.139

Government leading by example

53.Responding to Parliamentary Questions by our Chair, most government departments could point to generic policies that were “carer-friendly”. But only five, not including the DWP,140 had a dedicated carer’s policy in place and just six, including the DWP, were members of the EfC forum.141

54.Currently there is no specific UK-wide recognition scheme for carer friendly employers.142 Carers UK was commissioned by the Department of Health in January 2017 to develop and pilot an employer recognition scheme to be delivered by EfC.143 Carers UK told us that “there is an appetite for benchmarking in order for employers to measure the robustness of their support arrangements for carers”. They have developed a model which has three levels of recognition, based on five measurement criteria for each level. EfC is piloting the scheme between March and July 2018 with a view to it being launched on a self-sustaining basis.144

55.The rhetoric of flexibility is widespread, but the practical reality is often quite different. The Government is right to recognise the need for cultural change in employer attitudes. Without cultural change, welcome and well-intentioned policies, such as carer’s policies and passports, will have limited impact. Too often, steps such as offering flexible working arrangements are seen as favours to carers. Designing and advertising jobs as flexible by default sends a strong message to prospective employees that work can adapt to home lives, to mutual benefit. It disassociates flexible working from carers, older workers, disabled people and women, and recognises the benefits in relation to the entire workforce, employers and the economy.

56.The Government must adjust policies and legislation to support carers in employment. But it also has a vital role as an employer in leading by example, and extolling the benefits of employing carers to businesses and other partners. Several examples of best practice that came to light during our inquiry were from within the Civil Service. But we were both surprised and disappointed that just six government departments are members of the Employers for Carers forum and only five have specific carer policies. We welcome the employer benchmarking scheme commissioned by the Government as a means of driving change. Every department should be targeting the highest level of recognition.

57.We recommend that Government adopts an approach to employing carers in line with existing best practice, including membership of Employers for Carers and the Happy to Talk Flexible Working scheme. We further recommend that Government collect and publish information on each department’s support for carers in their employment policies and practices. This should be published annually and should include:

118 Simplyhealth (SFC 0049), North Tyneside Carers Centre (SFC 0046), Carer Support Wiltshire (SFC 0040), Work Foundation (SFC 0038), Kent County Council (SFC 0036), Future Care Capital (SFC 0035), Carers UK (SFC 0033), Aviva (SFC 0032), Northamptonshire carers (SFC 0030), Bournemouth and Poole Local Authorities (SFC 0029), Social Care Institute for Excellence (SFC 0023), Working Families (SFC 0018), Caring4Elders (SFC 0016), Healthwatch Essex (SFC 0014), Motor Neurone Disease Association (SFC 0012), Carers network University of Bristol (SFC 0011), Mark Brightburn (SFC 0010)

119 Social Care Institute of Excellence (SFC 0023)

120 Working Families (SFC 0018), Ian Peters and Katherine Wilson (SFC 0056), Simplyhealth (SFC 0049), North Tyneside Carers Centre (SFC 0046), Carers UK (SFC 0033)

121 Department for Work and Pensions (SFC 0044)

122 Working Families (SFC 0018)

123 Department for Work and Pensions (SFC 0044)

124 Working Families (SFC 0018)

125 Timewise, Flexible jobs index 2017, June 2017

126 Q42 (Laurence Beckett)

127 Federation of Small Businesses (SFC 0059)

128 Working Families (SFC 0018)

129 Age UK (SFC 0034), Q55 (Arthur Allen), Simplyhealth (SFC 0049), Mark Brightburn (SFC 0010)

130 Q9 (Sarah Jackson)

131 North Tyneside Council (SFC 0020)

132 North Tyneside Council (SFC 0020), Carers network University of Bristol (SFC 0011), Ian Peters and Katherine Wilson (SFC 0056), North Tyneside Carers Centre (SFC 0046), Cystic Fibrosis Trust (SFC 0045), Carer Support Wiltshire (SFC 0040)

133 Social Care Institute for Excellence (SFC 0023), Carers Leeds (SFC 0027), Carers UK (SFC 0033, Future Care Capital (SFC 0035)

134 Mark Brightburn (SFC 0010), Motor Neurone Disease Association (SFC 0012) Caring4Elders (SFC 0016), North Tyneside Council (SFC 0020), Sefton Metropolitan Borough Council (SFC 0024), Carers Leeds (SFC 0027), Northamptonshire Carers (SFC 0030), Carers UK (SFC 0033), Alzheimer’s Society (SFC 0041)

135 Mark Brightburn (SFC 0010), North Tyneside Council (SFC 0020), Hospice UK (SFC 0026), Bury Council (SFC 0028), Carers UK (SFC 0033), Carer Support Wiltshire (SFC 0040), Alzheimer’s Society (SFC 0041)

136 Ian Peters and Katherine Wilson (SFC 0056), Bury Council (SFC 0028), Carers Leeds (SFC 0027), Social Care Institute of Excellence (SFC 0023), North Tyneside Council (SFC 0020), MS Society (SFC 0017), Healthwatch Essex (SFC 0014) Hospice UK (SFC 0026)

137 Q64 (Olga Budimir)

138 North Tyneside Council (SFC 0020)

139 Future Care Capital (SFC 0035), Age UK (SFC 0034), Carers UK (SFC 0033), Working Families (SFC 0018), Mark Brightburn (SFC 0010)

140 Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Department for Exiting the European Union, Department of Health and Social Care

141 Department for Work and Pensions, Department for Health and Social Care, Home Office, Department for Transport, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Cabinet Office

142 The Carer Positive scheme, funded by the Scottish Government and operated by Carers Scotland, has been running in Scotland since June 2014

143 Carers UK (SFC 0060)

144 Carers UK (SFC 0060)

Published: 17 May 2018