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‘Sandwich generation’ carers

11 Dec 2019

Nearly half a million quit their careers in the last two years alone

The decision to look after an elderly, ill or seriously disabled relative has been made by 2.6 million people according to new research by Carers UK[1]. The findings also reveal that nearly half a million (468,000) have quit their careers in the last two years alone – more than 600 people a day. This is a 12% increase since Carers UK and YouGov polled the public in 2013.

More people are now caring than previously thought, with almost 5 million workers now juggling their paid job with caring – a dramatic rise compared with Census 2011 figures of 3 million. Previous research shows those aged 45–64 – the so-called ‘sandwich generation’ – are most likely to have a caring responsibility, providing a strong driver for employers to support and retain some of their most skilled and experienced employees.

Caring for a relative or partner in the future
In other research[2], a further 2.6 million employees aged 45 and over also expect that they will have to leave their careers in order to care for a relative or partner in the future. One in five (19%) employees aged 45 and over in the UK expect to leave work in order to care for adult family members.

Women in particular (20%) are more likely to see their careers cut short by the need to care for a relative or a partner, but men are not far behind (17%). But just 6% of employers view caring pressures as a significant issue faced by their employees, highlighting a disconnect between employee and employer.

Opting to take on their relatives’ care duties
Many mid-life employees[3] are opting to take on their relatives’ care duties themselves as a means of minimising care bills, but this decision is coming at the expense of their career.

The ‘sandwich generation’ is facing caring pressures at both ends of the age spectrum. It’s not just the care needs of older relatives that mid-life employees are having to contend with, as those aged 45 and over are facing care demands from both ends of the age spectrum.

Supporting both younger and older generations
One in ten (10%) mid-life employees expect they will have to leave work in order to care for children or grandchildren. This highlights the pressures being faced by this generation as they look to support both younger and older generations.

Despite the care conundrum expected to cause one in five employees to leave their jobs, just 6% of UK employers consider care pressures a significant issue being faced by their mid-life workforce.

Lack of support in the workplace is a difficult reality
Asked what support from their employer would be most important if combining their job with unpaid care for a loved one, 89% of UK adults said a supportive line manager or employer, 88% said the option to work flexibly, and 80% said five to ten days’ paid care leave.

Asked what supportive employment policies are currently available for carers in their workplace, 38% of UK employees said their employer had flexible working, but only 12% said they had additional paid care leave. A third (33%) of people currently juggling work and care said that there were no policies listed to support carers. This suggests that for many carers, the lack of support in the workplace is a difficult reality.

Financial and emotional costs of caring for relatives
7% of people said unpaid caring had negatively impacted on their paid work, down from 10% in 2013, indicating that measures by employers to support carers in the workplace have been working well for some.

The practical, financial and emotional costs of caring for relatives both young and old are forcing many people in mid-life to make increasingly difficult decisions about balancing their commitments. As the UK population ages, the number of carers at work can be expected to grow. Currently, only a small percentage of employers are prioritising the issue of care.

Employers want to keep valuable staff
If you need to give up your job to care for someone because it’s difficult to do both, it might be possible to change your working pattern and reduce your hours. Employers want to keep valuable staff.

Talk to your employer about how they can help you stay in work. You might be able to work part-time, from home or job share. Although reduced hours would have an impact on your salary, you might think about combining work and caring as a solution. τ

Source data:
[1] All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 4,254 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 28 December 2018 and 4 January 2019. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+). All calculations by Carers UK using ONS population statistics for 2018.
[2] Research of 1,036 UK employers and 2,020 employees aged 45+, conducted on behalf of Aviva by Censuswide, January 2019. All figures are based on this research unless otherwise stated. 2,666,750 figure scaled up according to the latest ONS Labour Market Stats – calculated as 19% of UK employee population aged 45+
[3] Employees aged 45+ are defined as ‘mid-life employees’ throughout the release

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