Employment support for carers Contents


The case for action

1.Most people will be carers at some stage in their lives. A carer is 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 support.1 From helping an elderly parent, to looking after a disabled child or assisting a sick neighbour, caring is wide-ranging. It is not defined by age, gender, income or employment status. The role of carer is often assumed without question: carers are simply doing the only thing imaginable. The responsibility could fall to any one of us.

2.According to the latest census data, there are 6.5 million carers in the UK.2 This number is set to rise as our population and workforce age.3 Carers UK, a membership charity, estimates that there will need to be a 40% increase in the number of carers by 2037, to a total of nine million. Carers UK valued the annual unpaid economic contribution of carers at £132 billion.4 They are indispensable to the person they care for and vital to society.

3.We were moved by the stories of all the carers we spoke to. They are strong, hard-working, devoted people. They undertake their caring role first and foremost as a parent, child, spouse or friend. More than three million carers (1 in 9 people in the workforce) juggle care with paid work.5 As well as a financial necessity, work can be an escape from the demands of caring. It boosts self-esteem,6 provides a sense of identity,7 and can be a welcome source of “normality”.8 On the other hand, work can add pressure to an already stressful life. This can be exacerbated by a lack of flexibility or understanding on the part of the employer. Many carers therefore find it difficult to work. One third of working age carers are in full time employment, compared with almost half of non-carers. One in six carers have at some point given up work to take on caring responsibilities, and almost three million have reduced their working hours.9 The loss of income from employment can cause financial difficulty, and carers are more likely to be in poverty than non-carers.

Table 1: Carers in employment

Full-time employment

Part-time employment

Poverty rateA

All adultsB




Adult carersC




A Poverty is measured as having a household income below 50% of the median (incomes are adjusted to account for household size)

B “Adult” is defined as any individual aged 16 and over, unless that individual is defined as a dependent child. A dependent child is: aged between 16 and 19; not married, in a civil partnership nor living with a partner; living with parents/a responsible adult; and, in full-time non-advanced education or in unwaged government training.

C “Informal carer” is defined as “individuals who provide any regular service or help to someone, in or outside of their household who is sick, disabled or elderly”. It excludes those who only give this help as part of a formal job.

D This relates to adults providing between 20 and 49 hours of care a week.

Source: Family Resources Survey 2015/16 and New Policy Institute

4.The loss of carers from the workforce is costly to employers. A recent study estimated the direct costs of losing an employee, including lost productivity and recruitment costs, to be between 100% and 150% of the employee’s annual salary.10 As carers are predominantly aged 45 to 64, the loss of skill and experience can be especially damaging. We heard that the effects on small businesses of losing a key member of staff to caring can be “disproportionately large”.11 On the other hand, employers who have supported carers to remain in employment report benefits in staff retention, attendance and engagement and higher productivity.12

5.Enabling carers to stay in, or enter, work brings wider benefits to the economy. The London School of Economics (LSE) found that unpaid carers leaving employment cost the public purse £2.9 billion a year in welfare payments and lost tax revenue.13 At a time when employment rates are very high, but productivity growth has been sluggish, carers are an untapped resource for the economy. With better support, more carers could work, and work longer hours in a fuller range of jobs.

Juggling caring and work

6.We heard, however, that carers face significant barriers to juggling care and employment:

7.Too many carers reach this conclusion. However, our inquiry also uncovered wonderful examples of employer best practice. They demonstrate two things: first, there is great variability in experiences of juggling care and work; and second, it is possible to combine successful caring with successful employment.19 This report aims to make it easier for carers who wish to stay in or enter work. It focuses on three areas:

8.We are extremely grateful to all the carers who spoke to us at our hearings in Westminster and when we visited Stoke-on-Trent. The carers we met shared their stories candidly, providing an invaluable insight into the day-to-day realities of juggling care and work. Those in Stoke-on-Trent highlighted the importance of tapering Carer’s Allowance, flexible working and carer’s leave. Employers we met told us of the value in keeping carers in their workforce, but the need to raise awareness of such benefits amongst employers. We hope they feel their concerns have been heard and reflected through our report.

1 Carer’s Trust, About carers, accessed 14 May 2018

2 Office for National Statistics, 2011 Census data, accessed 14 May 2018

3 Department for Work and Pensions (SFC 0044)

4 Carers UK, Valuing Carers 2015, 12 November 2015

5 Carers UK (SFC 0033)

6 Professor Alisoun Milne (SFC 0002)

7 Motor Neurone Disease Association (SFC 0012)

8 Motor Neurone Disease Association (SFC 0012), Cystic Fibrosis Trust (SFC 0045)

9 Carers UK (SFC 0033)

10 Ian Peters and Katherine Wilson (SFC 0056)

11 Ian Peters and Katherine Wilson (SFC 0056)

12 HM Government, Employers for Carers and Carers UK, Supporting working carers: The benefits to families, business and the economy, August 2013

13 London School of Economics (SFC 0064)

14 Ian Peters and Katherine Wilson (SFC 0056), MS Society (SFC0017), Contact (SFC 0008)

15 Young Women’s Trust (SFC 0007), Disability Law Service (SFC 0009), 0011 Name Withheld, Employment Related Services Association (SFC 0013), Working Families (SFC 0018), Sefton Metropolitan Borough Council (SFC 0024), Hospice UK (SFC 0026), Professor Alisoun Milne (SFC 0002), Social Care Institute for Excellence (SFC 0023), Carers UK (SFC 0033), Age UK (SFC 0034)

16 Carers Leeds (SFC 0027), Northamptonshire Carers (SFC 0030), Kent County Council (SFC 0036), Carer Support Wiltshire (SFC 0040)

17 Aviva plc (SFC 0032), Carer Support Wiltshire (SFC 0040), Carers Trust (SFC 0022)

18 Kent County Council (SFC 0036), Carers Support Centre Bristol South Gloucestershire (SFC 0025)

19 NHS Improvement (SFC 0063), NHS Improvement’s Workforce Retention Programme, West Yorkshire and Harrogate Health and Care Partnership (SFC0061), Centrica (SFC0048), Sainsbury’s (SFC0047), Cystic Fibrosis Trust (SFC0045), Aviva plc (SFC0032), Working Families (SFC0018)

Published: 17 May 2018