Leading employee benefits provider Unum UK warns that carers’ financial and mental wellbeing is currently a major cause for concern, as over 1 in 5 workers consider themselves in the ‘sandwich generation’ (juggling dual caring responsibilities for children and ageing relatives).
During National Carers Week, Unum is highlighting the importance of employers offering additional support to employees with caring responsibilities to reflect on just how much value unpaid carers add to society and the economy.
According to research carried out by Opinium commissioned by Unum in 2022:
- 13% have felt compelled to leave an employer unsupportive of their caring duties
- 35% said their dual responsibilities have affected their mental health
- 20% say they are less productive at work due to their caring responsibilities
- 16% have had to take days off sick to manage their dual caring responsibilities
- 26% wanted employers to improve access to mental health assistance.
Carers are also more likely to be in debt, especially in the context of the cost-of-living crisis. A survey by Carers UK of 12,400 current unpaid carers found that one in six (16%) are now in debt as they try to manage their monthly costs.
An average of 600 UK workers leave work to care every day. Yet despite unpaid carers in England and Wales contribute a staggering £445 million to the economy every day — that’s £162 billion per year — the government pays carers just £76.75 a week providing they look after someone for at least 35 hours per week. At an hourly rate, that works out as £2.19 per hour. For context, the National Living Wage for an adult aged 23+ is almost five times higher, at £10.42 per hour.
Many carers also take on caring responsibilities despite having long-term health conditions or disabilities of their own. Carers UK reveals that 60% of carers had a long-term health condition or disability.
An Office for National Statistics survey conducted in autumn 2022 found that 1 in 6 (16%) Great British adults experience moderate to severe depressive symptoms. However, among those undertaking unpaid care for at least 35 hours a week, prevalence of moderate to severe depressive symptoms more than doubled to 37%.
Liz Walker, COO, Unum UK says: “Carers are now entitled by law to one week of unpaid leave per year, allowing them the flexibility to take time off for appointments, unexpected events or simply a chance to rest. Whilst this is good progress, carers still need support for the remaining 51 weeks in the year.
“There’s an urgent need for employers to support employees with care responsibilities by providing benefits and resources that can help to reduce the strain. By supporting the sandwich generation and working carers to stay in work, you are retaining skilled employees, improving productivity and benefiting the wider economy. So, what can employers do to help?
- Communicate — lessen the taboo by taking a top-down approach. If someone in senior leadership is going through a situation of caring and working, sharing their story, if comfortable, will help others realise that channels of communication are open across the company
- Provide benefits and resources but ensure these are signposted clearly — particularly financial education and mental health support
- A flexible work environment is the benefit most valued by the sandwich generation. Consider flexi-time, job sharing or compressed hours.”