Father and daughter with Grandfather discussing vegetables in an allotment

In a pickle: UK's estimated 6 million 'sandwich generation' workers need better employer support

  • 21% of UK workers consider themselves part of the ‘sandwich generation’ (caring for both young children and elderly parents/relatives) 
  • An estimated 6 million people have dual caring responsibilities when extrapolated to the UK workforce1
  • Among the sandwich generation, more than 1 in 3 people felt a toll on their mental health, while 29% found it a financial strain
  • 21% in the sandwich generation say their employer does not offer support to balance work and home responsibilities

According to a new Opinium poll commissioned by leading UK employee benefits provider Unum, it is estimated that more than 6 million people in the UK workforce — over 1 in 5 workers — are juggling dual caring responsibilities for children and elderly relatives.2

The strain of caring and working is evident on the nation’s overall health and wellbeing, with 35% of sandwich generation workers saying it’s impacted their mental health; 29% saying it’s impacted their financial health; and 25% feeling an impact to their physical health.

The stress is no surprise, and it’s evident something has to give. According to the research, 20% say they are less productive at work and 13% have left an unsupportive employer.

Meanwhile, almost a quarter (24%) of sandwich generation workers have needed time off work to manage their caring responsibilities, with a further 16% saying it pushed them into taking time off sick. Combined, this means 2 in 5 sandwich generation workers have been forced to take time away from their jobs to cope with the realities of their dual caring responsibilities.

Although the majority of sandwich generation workers say their employer understands their needs, 31% said their employer has a poor understanding of their responsibilities.

Despite 38% saying their employer offered flexible hours; fewer than a third of employees received help from their employer in the form of remote working, emergency leave to care for ill dependents or an employee assistance programme (EAP).

Unfortunately, 1 in 5 (21%) said their employer did not offer support to help balance their work and home responsibilities. In addition to flexible work arrangements, employees wanted to see their employers:

  • Create a specific support programme, including signposting to external care (35%)
  • Improve/provide resources for life and wellbeing support (31%)
  • Provide onsite childcare resources or financial support for childcare (31%)
  • Improve/give access to mental health assistance (26%)

Mark Till, CEO at Unum UK commented:

“It’s clear from our data that there is work for employers to do to support the huge number of UK workers with dual caring responsibilities. A comprehensive benefits package can provide a wide array of support services for employees having to manage caregiving responsibilities and work — especially around mental, financial and physical health concerns that sandwich generation workers raise as a particular issue. The bottom line is employers must consider how to be understanding whilst providing effective support services to avoid losing staff who feel under-supported.”

¹ONS Labour Market Overview, March 2022
²Research conducted by Opinium between 4-8 March 2022 amongst a nationally representative sample of 2,000 UK adults.

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