Many carers have such extensive caring roles that pursuing their own life and specifically their career aspirations proves insurmountable, or put on hold. Being a full-time or part-time unpaid carer significantly reduces a person’s employment participation rate relative to peers without caring responsibilities.

We know that there often is extra financial expenditure typically associated with providing care to a family member of friend. For example, it has been estimated that a carer may be subsidising an additional $144 per fortnight to look after a person with a mental health issue. Such financial stresses on carer households may increase the incentive for many carers to undertake paid work.

Carers who prepare for and seek employment, experience high levels of under-employment or unemployment. Many find it difficult to enter, or re-enter career pathways.

In South Australia, 46% of primary carers juggle work and care responsibilities and 13% of carers (Carers SA 2017 survey) who are currently not in the workforce would like to gain either full-time or part time employment, but many lack confidence in gaining employment.

Working carers have told us that opportunities to negotiate flexible work arrangements or reduced hours with employers who support carer friendly work environments is a key factor to maintaining employment, work performance and carer wellbeing. When such arrangements are not easily supported or available, carers reported having to opt for less paid jobs, they often miss out on career advancement opportunities and experience stress in the workplace.

It seems that some carers and employers may still not be fully aware of their obligations and rights an employee has to request flexible working arrangements (including part-time work arrangements). The Fair Work Act (2009) section 65 (1A) for example provides a list of circumstances which specifically mentions that right for carer within the meaning of the Carer Recognition Act 2010. Further information and a best practice guide on this topic is available via the Fair Work Ombudsman website:

In the current Carers SA’s Pre-Budget submission to the SA Government, Carers SA is urging the State Government to

  • provide incentives for South Australian businesses and employers to implement employment conditions that support employees who are unpaid carers; and
  • initiate carer and young carer specific strategies to access education, training and employment.

Carers and business leaders in our community have an opportunity to select those candidates in the South Australian State Election 2018, who support unpaid carers and their families. Specifically those candidates who are also willing to support employers and businesses who value carers and their contributions to our community.

Marianne Lewis
Carers SA, Senior Policy, Projects and Carer Engagement Officer