Flexible working and better services improves unpaid carers’ employment prospects and health

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The FINANCIAL — The use of formal care services and flexible working arrangements leads to better employment outcomes among carers, research from LSE has found.

Researchers at LSE’s Personal Social Services Research Unit reviewed international economic evidence on support for unpaid carers in Review of the international evidence on support for unpaid carers, published in the Journal of Long-Term Care. They found that where people with care needs received some kind of formal care service —such as personal assistants day care, or meals services — unpaid carers were more likely to be in employment. This was particularly evident for women and those providing longer hours of care.

The authors found increased provision of home care services is associated with increased labour force participation among those likely to provide unpaid care. Increased government spending on formal care provision was also found to be potentially cost-effective.

Supporting unpaid carers to reconcile their work and care commitments via flexible working arrangements was also shown to have positive outcomes. Flexible working hours, the option to work from home, and flexible leave, were associated with higher rates of employment for unpaid carers.

Additionally, there was some evidence that flexible working can mitigate the negative effects on the mental and physical health of unpaid care, especially women. The authors also noted the positive outcomes for employers through flexible working; improved retention, productivity, and good employee relations. This could result in lower costs for employers.

Despite these benefits, there appears to be a lack of awareness among employees in the UK of their right to request flexible working, and employees can be reluctant to ask for flexible working because of concerns about the effects on their employment or career if they did so.

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Psychological therapy, training and education and support groups appeared to be one of the most effective ways of directly supporting unpaid carers’ health and wellbeing, the authors note.



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