Bargaining for Carers

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2019 National Women's Conference
2 October 2018

This conference applauds the recent publication by UNISON of the BARGAINING ON CARERS POLICIES: How branches can benefit from bargaining on carers rights at work

The Carers Trust defines a carer as “anyone who cares, unpaid,

for a friend or family member who due to illness, disability, a mental health problem or an addiction cannot cope without their support”. And that caring role may happen overnight with someone close to you suddenly taken ill, or else it may be a more gradual commitment, as elderly or disabled loved ones need help to continue to live independently.

Many people, whether out of necessity or choice rely on unpaid carers, many, if not most of whom are women family members. As well as caring for adult dependants, our women members may be struggling with balancing their work commitments with caring for their children and grandchildren.

The UNISON document gives up to date information and statistics about how carers are disadvantaged by the absence of good workplace policies

Caring responsibilities are a key reason that workers request flexible working or special leave but too often these are refused. Carers may also experience unfair treatment at work that could be discriminatory.

There are estimated to be 4.27 million carers of working age living in the UK; 2.44 million (57%) of these are women and 1.83 million (43%) are men, so this is an issue that disproportionately affects women.

These caring responsibilities may be wide ranging and include (but are not limited to):

• personal care

• help with the dependant’s mobility

• assistance with the management of medication

• emotional support

• practical support such as housework, help with financial matters and

• administration


Around 2 million people have given up their work to care, driven from the workplace because their work life balance is just too difficult.

Even more women have reduced their working hours, in order to continue their caring responsibilities, taking an immediate reduction in pay and potentially facing a future with a poverty pension.

For those women carers still managing to work, the issue is too often hidden and carers in the workplace can particularly experience:

• a feeling of loneliness or isolation as a result of their caring responsibilities

• a feeling that colleagues and managers don’t understand the impact of caring

• a fear of talking about their caring responsibilities in case they are then treated less favourably

The Work and Pensions select committee reports that “Carers are too often “nervous?, even “fearful? of discussing their circumstances with their employer. Stigma still exists”.

The peak age for caring is between 50 and 64 years of age, carers may therefore likely to be among the most skilful and experienced employees, those that are the hardest for employers to quickly replace.

The new UNISON guidance is really easy to read with lots of information and ideas for branches to negotiate improvements in local policies and procedures that if agreed and implemented, could significantly improve the working lives of many of our women members who have caring responsibilities.

Conference, we commend this new guidance to you and ask that you take a copy home with you; that you talk to your branch committee about the document and what improvements could be negotiated with your employer. The guidance even includes a model carers policy, so most of the work on putting together an employer’s policy has already been done.

UNISON campaigns on negotiating improvement in carers policies can be really successful, raising the profile of the branch, increasing membership, letting women carers know that they are not forgotten and most importantly, when implemented, the policy will be making the lives of our working carers just that little bit easier. Conference this guidance is a vital document for use in supporting women members and it cannot be allowed to sit on a shelf in any branch office unused.

Conference therefore asks the National Women’s Committee to;

1)Publicise and provide a link to the “BARGAINING ON CARERS POLICIES: How branches can benefit from bargaining on carers rights at work” document on their page of the UNISON national website.

2. Work with all necessary sectors and departments within UNISON to promote both the availability and contents of the document as widely as possible to our members.