An Express headline on how many working carers fear for their job is flawed

11th Aug 2020

Claim

4.7 million unpaid carers fear getting sacked over caring commitments.

Conclusion

This figure is based on the results of a survey question answered by 280 working carers meaning there is some uncertainty about how accurate the figure is. It asked whether they thought they would ever have no option but to leave their existing job to help care for a dependent or relative due to lack of support and flexibility from their employer.

“Care crisis: 4.7m unpaid carers fear the sack if they put loved ones first”

The Daily Express, 29 July 2020

At the end of July, the Express published an article claiming that “as many as 4.7 million” people who have caring responsibilities could end up without a job due to “unsupportive” employers. The data comes from a survey commissioned by insurers the Phoenix Group in May 2020. But the Express headline does not strictly match what was asked in the survey and there are some issues with the poll itself.

The Phoenix Group says 4.7 million working carers are at risk of being forced to leave their jobs in the future due to unsupportive employers. They got this from a survey done by Opinium which polled 2,004 UK adults between 15 May and 18 May 2020, which was weighted to be nationally representative. 

The Phoenix Group told Full Fact this 4.7 million figure was taken from the survey question “Do you think you would ever have no option but to give up your existing job to help care for a dependent or relative due to lack of support and flexibility from your employer?” The question did not mention being “sacked” from your job as the Express headline did.  The headliner has since been updated

This question was asked to 1,253 “workers” (out of the total 2,004 surveyed), 280 of whom said they were carers. 178 of the working carers responded yes to that question or around 8.9% of all respondents to the survey. This percentage was then applied to the total UK adult population to give the 4.7 million figure.

There are some issues here. Firstly this makes assumptions about the wider UK population from a small sample size. Although Opinium surveyed more than 2,000 adults in total, only 280 of those were working carers. As we’ve written about before the smaller the sample of people who respond to a question the larger the margin of error is likely to be.

Opinium only surveyed adults aged 18 and over, which leaves out those who may be over 16 who are working carers who fear losing their jobs.

Also, the question the Express headline is based on, “Do you think you would ever have no option but to give up your existing job to help care for a dependent or relative due to lack of support and flexibility from your employer?”, is phrased as a hypothetical. The Express headline could suggest people are imminently in danger of losing jobs, rather than it being an unmeasured possibility sometime in the future.

Update 13 August 2020

This piece has been updated to reflect the Express changing the headline of their article.