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Disabled teenager is in her wheelchair in the garden while her father hangs clothes on the washing line.
Social security

The caring penalty

Unpaid carers provide an invaluable service to society, but they shoulder a financial penalty in doing so. This report looks at the financial impact of unpaid care, and how policies can help mitigate it.

Date published:

Using data from Understanding Society, this report looks at the magnitude, causes, and distribution of the carer pay penalty, as well as its evolution over time.


  • Tackling the caring penalty requires a radical redesign of work and how we perceive the role of care within it. This means support to give all carers genuine choice about how to juggle work and care, mitigate the financial impact of losing or reducing paid work, and prevent people from dropping out of work if their caring responsibilities increase.
  • Any future settlement around care – unpaid or formal – should include a new Statutory Carer Pay entitlement, which mirrors statutory maternity pay and provides earnings-related financial support for carers with high-intensity caring demands up to nine months. This maintains the link between the carer and work, unlike Carers Allowance, and would prevent the financial shock of significantly reducing or exiting work, as well as reducing the demand for formal care services in the future.
  • A wider reform of job design and employee leave to help carers juggle work and care and encourage more men to take on unpaid care, including an employee’s right to have flexible working from day one and a more generous paternity leave entitlement.
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This report is part of the care topic.

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