Mind the caring gap

The new Mind the caring gap report shows the huge impact on work, physical wellbeing, and mental health for carers in the legal sector.

Woman and older man with walking stick stood together in the garden. Image from the Centre for ageing better image library by Peter Kindersley.

Embracing the Carers Week 2024 theme, 'Putting Carers on the Map', international law firm RPC, Next 100 Years and LawCare, have published the outcomes of its carers audit in a new report about caring. This report aims to highlight and address the unique challenges faced by carers in the legal profession.

Toll on mental health

The mental and physical toll of being carer is significant:

  • Over three-quarters (77%) of those surveyed reporting an impact on their mental health.
  • 70% said their physical health was affected by their caring role.

"I was struck by 77% of respondents reported that their mental health had been negatively impacted by their caring responsibilities. When you read of the struggles many with caring responsibilities in our sector experience, this is not surprising. We need to do better. We all share a common goal of a diverse and sustainable legal sector, where everyone feels equally valued and can thrive. To achieve this, we need to implement working practices that support the mental wellbeing of everyone and address the inequalities faced by those with caring responsibilities to ensure that they have an equal chance to reach their potential and contribute positively to the legal sector."

Elizabeth Rimmer

Carers in the legal sector struggle alone

  • 82% of legal professionals with caring responsibilities reported they had been juggling their career and role as carer, for an average of four and a half years.
  • An overwhelming majority (66%) had been doing so with either no support at all or with unpaid help only.

"Being a carer is rewarding, but it often pulls individuals away from the careers they've worked hard to build. Balancing a demanding legal career with caregiving responsibilities requires firms to foster inclusive and supportive cultures. By implementing policies that address the unpredictable and emotional nature of caring, legal professionals can thrive in their careers while fulfilling their caregiving roles, receiving the support they need to succeed in both areas."

Rachel Pears, 'sandwich-carer' and Head of Responsible Business at RPC

The report reveals that many carers do not have access to employer support:

  • 48% of respondents sharing that they had to take annual leave because their firm didn't offer alternative carer support.
  • Interestingly, just under a third (31%) of respondents take advantage of the support provided by their firm.

"Carers shouldn't be afraid to take advantage of their employers' support," adds Pears. "The reason any firm provides a carers policy is because they care. Anyone using such policies shouldn't fear judgment."


Negative impact on career progression

Furthermore, the survey indicates that:

  • 57% of respondents believe their caring role negatively impacts their career progression.
  • 54% say it affects their work more generally.

"Women are more likely to take on caring responsibilities, and for many it has an impact on their careers. Pay and progression take a back seat, while carers prioritise stability and focus on juggling pressures that employers might not be aware of."

Dana Denis-Smith, Founder of the Next 100 Years and CEO of Obelisk Support,

“Offering flexibility to balance work with caring responsibilities is vital but we need to normalise part time and flexible work in the legal sector. Past Next 100 Years research has identified that women consider working part time to be detrimental to their career - but it should be possible to work the hours that accommodate your family life and thrive in your career. We need more acceptance of different working patterns, kindness and understanding, ensuring that although people’s caring responsibilities are out of sight, they are not out of mind.

“If the legal profession can get this right, it will benefit from dedicated and loyal employees, see less attrition and ultimately more women taking on senior positions.”

The report findings underscore the importance of robust support systems for carers within the legal profession. By addressing the multifaceted challenges that carers face, firms can ensure that their employees are not forced to choose between their careers and their caring responsibilities.

Read the full report here