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UK: Almost a million working carers hide caring duties from employers

  • Study interviewed more than 1,000 UK workers with caring commitments
  • More than a fifth of workers with caring responsibilities haven’t told employers
  • Working carers concerned about career prospects and colleagues’ opinions
  • Government has pledged to give workers statutory entitlement to carer’s leave
  • Aviva has introduced new policy to support workers with carer responsibilities

Almost a million UK workers could be secretly juggling carer responsibilities with their jobs, because they are nervous about telling employers, a study from Aviva reveals.(1)

A survey of more than 1,000 employed UK adults who also have a range of caring duties – including caring for older relatives, partners and children with disabilities – found that more than one in five (22%) hadn’t told their employer about their caring commitments, while a similar number (18%) had only told selected trusted colleagues.

When asked why this was the case, more than a quarter (26%) of these ‘hidden’ carers said they didn’t want others to think they weren’t fulfilling their responsibilities at work. Nearly one in 10 (8%) said they were worried that they might lose their jobs, while the same proportion (8%) were concerned their carer duties would affect their career prospects.

Statistics from Carers Trust indicate there are 4.27 million carers of working age living in the UK and one in eight UK workers is a carer.

The Aviva survey was carried out as part of an initiative to support employees with caring responsibilities. This week the company has implemented a carer policy(2) to give greater flexibility to these workers, enabling them to balance work with caring commitments. The research revealed that 83% of working carers believe they should be treated in the same way as parents, in terms of unpaid leave and other parental policies.

The study, which interviewed carers who worked across a range of industries, also found:

  • Four out of five working carers had needed to leave work or cancel arrangements at short notice because they needed to care for a loved one.
  • However, only four out of 10 said their employer was always fully supportive of their working and caring responsibilities.
  • Respondents said they devoted 10 hours a week on average to supporting the people they care for, although around a third of respondents spend longer than this.

Andy Briggs, CEO UK Insurance and Global Life and Health, Aviva, said: “The UK population is ageing and it’s estimated that three in five people in the UK will care for someone at some point in their lives. This in turn has implications for our workforce. Currently one in five carers leaves employment in order to care, which means vital skills are being lost from the workplace. It’s therefore crucial that businesses consider how they can support employees in this position.  

“It’s unthinkable that some people don’t feel able to tell managers and colleagues about their caring commitments, so we want to break this taboo and encourage workers and employers to talk openly, in the same way that people talk about parental responsibilities.

“The Government has already outlined plans give workers a new statutory entitlement to carer’s leave, so the more that businesses can do to support employees right now, the better.”

Working carer statistics(3) 

  • Nearly one in eight UK workers is a carer.
  • By 2030, the number of carers in the UK will increase by 3.4 million (around 60%) to 9 million.
  • There are 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.
  • Every year over 2.1 million UK adults become carers and almost as many people find that their caring responsibilities come to an end. This ‘turnover’ means that caring will touch the lives of most of the population.

Notes to editors:

Andy Briggs is the Government’s Business Champion for Older Workers, as well as CEO UK Insurance and Global Life and Health, Aviva.

1. The Aviva research was carried out in September 2017 by Censuswide research, interviewing 1,007 UK adults who are employed across a range of roles and industries, while also have caring responsibilities. The figure of ‘almost a million’ relates to 22% of working carers who haven’t told their employers about caring commitments (Aviva research) in relation to 4.27 million carers of working age (source, Carers Trust).

2. Aviva’s carers’ policy includes:

• Up to 35 hours’ paid leave per holiday year for time off for a planned event, for example, to attend a hospital appointment with the person who is being cared for. 

• Up to 35 hours’ paid leave for emergencies per holiday year.

• If circumstances mean employees with carer responsibilities need a longer period of time off, Aviva has extended parental leave (not to be confused with maternity/paternity leave), to include carers. This means that employees who have caring commitments can request unpaid leave up to four weeks per year (18 weeks in total)

• If an employee needs a more permanent change, they may request to adjust their working pattern. For example, they may wish to request part-time hours to help balance long-term carer duties with work.

• In addition, Aviva has increased bereavement leave from 35 to 70 hours.

• Parental leave should not be confused with maternity/paternity leave. Parental leave provides up to 18 weeks unpaid leave in total, with a maximum of four weeks unpaid leave in any one year, per child. This means a carer could take four weeks unpaid leave per year per person they are caring for from 2nd October (subject to a maximum cap of 18 weeks).

• Entitlements are pro-rata’d for part-time employees per holiday year.

3.  Source: (this section only) Carers Trust charity.

About Aviva:

Notes to editors:

  • Aviva provides life insurance, general insurance, health insurance and asset management to 33 million customers.
  • In the UK we are the leading insurer serving one in every four households and have strong businesses in selected markets in Europe, Asia and Canada. Our shares are listed on the London Stock Exchange and we are a member of the FTSE100 index.  
  • Aviva’s asset management business, Aviva Investors, provides asset management services to both Aviva and external clients, and currently manages over £340 billion in assets. Total group assets under management at Aviva group are £450 billion.
  • Aviva helps people save for the future and manage the risks of everyday life; we paid out £34.4 billion in benefits and claims in 2016.
  • By serving our customers well, we are building a business which is strong and sustainable, which our people are proud to work for, and which makes a positive contribution to society.
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