Almost a million UK workers could be secretly juggling carer responsibilities with their jobs because they are nervous about telling their employer, research has found.
A study from Aviva found 22 per cent of employed UK adults had not told their employer about their caring commitments while 18 per cent had only told some trusted colleagues.
The poll quizzed more than 1,000 people who had a range of caring duties, including caring for older relatives, partners and children with disabilities.
When asked why, 26 per cent of these ‘hidden’ carers said they did not want others to think they were not fulfilling their responsibilities at work.
In fact 8 per cent said they were worried they might lose their jobs and 8 per cent were concerned their carer duties would affect their career prospects.
Andy Briggs, chief executive for UK insurance and global life and health at Aviva, said: "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."
The research revealed 83 per cent of working carers believed they should be treated like parents, with unpaid leave and other parental policies.
This is because four out of five working carers said they had needed to leave work or cancel arrangements at short notice because they needed to care for a loved one.
Statistics from Carers Trust showed there were 4.27m carers of working age in the UK and one in eight UK workers is a carer.
The Aviva survey coincided with the launch of its carer policy, which gives greater flexibility to these workers, allowing them to balance work with caring commitments.
The policy provides Aviva employees with access to paid leave for carers and the same entitlement as parents taking unpaid leave.
It follows a successful pilot at the company’s Bristol site, where a support network was established earlier this year to help people with caring commitments.
The launch comes as part of a wider programme called Wellbeing@Aviva which provides employees with a range of products, policies and advice to support their overall wellbeing.
Mr Briggs added: "Changing demographics and an ageing population mean that three in five people in the UK will end up caring for someone at some point of their lives. So we’re taking this step now, to support our workers and the people they care about."