What is the impact of informal caregiving on the self-employed?

Suzanne Noble

by , Entrepreneur

Startup School for Seniors

04 Mar 2024 /  

Mar 2024

Older man with young son outside.

One-in-five individuals aged 50 and above are considered “informal carers”. These are individuals who take on the responsibility of unpaid care for someone, such as an elderly parent or a grandchild. The rising costs of care have meant family members feel compelled to step in and provide assistance. Often, this means having to make the difficult decision to reduce their working hours or leave the workforce entirely. According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), those over 50 also represent nearly half of the UKs self-employed workforce. So what’s the impact on those who are turning to self-employment to help balance their caregiving responsibilities?

Being self-employed is commonly associated with the notion of a deliberate choice. Working for yourself can offer a flexible work-life balance, independence from a boss, and the ability to pursue your passion. For informal carers, the decision to become self-employed may be out of necessity rather than preference. Those who are caring for someone, particularly an ageing parent, face unpredictable working hours. In these circumstances, self-employment might be their only option for income.

Co-Founder of Startup School for Seniors; Suzanne Noble says: “20% of our participants, in line with government statistics, are informal carers.”

I have a colleague who experienced this first-hand. When her 94-year-old mother suffered a sudden fall, the time out of work needed made it impossible for her to maintain a full-time job.

Regardless of the motivations behind taking on caregiving responsibilities in later life, it can impose financial as well as emotional costs. A report by PensionBee highlighted that every year out of paid work results in a significant loss of £5,000, on average, to an individual’s pension pot. Those who are self-employed are already at risk of saving less into their pension. They don’t benefit from Auto-Enrolment and employer contributions, as those enrolled in a workplace pension do, and they often have irregular income. So if they’re also providing unpaid care, they’re penalised twice.

The Carer’s Leave Act of 2023 introduced some support for employees who are unpaid carers, although it may take some time for the new regulations to be implemented. While this is a step in the right direction, more support is needed for the self-employed to help them balance their careers with caregiving responsibilities.

6 tips for balancing caregiving with self-employment

  1. Every penny counts - you may be eligible to apply for further support as an informal caregiver so make sure you know what you’re entitled to. You can check on gov.uk.

  2. Make time for yourself - it might sound obvious but looking after yourself is so important, especially if you’re a carer. Ask a friend or relative to step in while you take some time for yourself to see a film, go to the theatre or out for a meal. Whatever makes you feel good.

  3. Don’t forget about your pension - it can be hard to keep up pension payments while you’re juggling lots of other responsibilities. But try to maintain your pension contributions as much as you can so you don’t fall short when you reach retirement age. If you’re new to self-employment, it’s well worth setting up a self-employed pension. PensionBee’s plan offers flexible contributions, which is particularly helpful if you have a fluctuating income - something that often comes with being self-employed. Read more about self-employment and saving for retirement.

Co-Founder of Startup School for Seniors; Suzanne Noble says: “Balancing self-employment with informal caregiving in later life can impose both financial and emotional costs.”

  1. Reevaluate your workload - when you’re working for yourself, there’s a tendency to try and get it all done yourself. If you’re running your own business with a small team of employees, try to delegate any tasks you can such as admin or social media posting. If you work alone, consider how a Virtual Assistant could help you keep on top such tasks.

  2. Take advantage of virtual networking - when you’re juggling lots of different responsibilities, you’ll need any time back that you can get. So if you can, cut back on travelling to face-to-face meetings by taking advantage of virtual check-ins. Whether that’s catching up with clients, suppliers or your fellow freelance community.

  3. Make sure you’re communicating - tell your clients or customers if you need to extend a deadline, or if a pressing issue has arisen to do with your caregiving responsibilities. People are more forgiving than you may think.

Risk warning

As always with investments, your capital is at risk. The value of your investment can go down as well as up, and you may get back less than you invest. This information should not be regarded as financial advice.

Suzanne Noble is a serial entrepreneur and the Co-Founder of the award-winning Startup School for Seniors, an online programme that supports over 50s to turn an idea into a business or grow their existing business’s trading income. Featured on BBC News, the Telegraph, the Times, Buzzfeed, amongst others, Suzanne wants to support those over 50 to manifest the life they desire.

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