2/3 people have to take time out of work to provide unpaid care

Ffion White

by , PR Manager

28 June 2023 /  

June 2023

Retired couple.

Two-in-three people are likely to take time out to provide unpaid care at some point during their working life, according to a new report from leading online pension provider, PensionBee.

The Carer’s Pension Gap report highlights the extent of unpaid care in the UK and how it affects people’s retirement savings.

PensionBee identifies key moments when people are most likely to need to take time out of work to provide care. These are taking care of children (48% of people who said they had to take time out of work to care), followed by looking after parents (30%), a partner (21%), and grandparents (15%). Just 5% reported having to look after grandchildren, although this rises to 19% of carers aged between 55 and 64. Three of the key care moments are most likely to occur in someone’s late 50s or early 60s, in the build up to retirement.

PensionBee estimates that for every year spent out of work to perform unpaid care, a pension pot is roughly £5,000 lower at retirement, while every year spent working part-time (three days a week) is roughly £2,000 lower.

While a higher proportion of female carers note looking after their children as the reason for having taken time out of work (a factor believed to be a root cause of the gender pension gap which stands at 38% nationally), male carers are more likely than female carers to look after their parents or partner (1).

For someone who needs to provide unpaid care at all five key life moments, PensionBee estimates their pension pot could be almost £30,000 less at retirement. This Carer’s Pension Gap is the difference between a pot size of £222,000 at age 67 and one worth £193,000 at the same age (2). This assumes two years out of paid work to look after children, plus an extra year each (four in total) for caring for grandparents, parents, grandchildren and a partner at other critical moments through working life.

After taking a 25% tax-free lump sum, someone facing the Carer’s Pension Gap could receive a retirement income of approximately £12,222 per year with the larger £222,000 pot, compared to an annual income of roughly £10,582 with the smaller pot of £193,00 (3). The findings show that someone who has taken time out of work to care can expect a basic standard of living in retirement, with an annual income of approximately £20,000 including a full State Pension and annuity at today’s rates. This falls slightly short of the £23,000 that the Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association recommends for a moderate standard of living in retirement (4).

Becky O’Connor, Director (VP) Public Affairs of PensionBee, commented: “We are a nation of carers. Millions of workers; both male and female, old and young, are filling the gaps created by a lack of social care support, at great personal cost. The chance of this affecting any one of us throughout our working lives is high. The consequences go beyond pensions and security in later life, affecting people’s careers, personal lives, and also the UK economy.

It’s not a niche problem - nor is it necessarily gendered - although currently, women are more likely to face the consequences of the biggest gap: the childcare gap. Besides the pension gap caused by childcare, it’s clear there is a strong case to give attention to the impact of the multiple care moments faced by people in their late fifties and early sixties.

As the Government looks to address the labour shortage, particularly among older people who have left the workforce early, it’s imperative to find a solution that prevents people from missing out on key working years to avoid a pension shortfall in retirement.”

Note to Editors

Case studies and regional data breakdowns are available on request.

Full report available here.


Table 1: Have you ever had to take time out of paid work to care for anyone, unpaid?

% of respondents
Yes, I have 67%
No, I haven’t 31%
I’d prefer not to say 2%

Source: PensionBee, April 2023. Based on a sample size of 1,489 respondents.

Table 2: For whom did you have to provide unpaid care?

% of respondents, aged 18 to 80 % of respondents aged 55 to 64
My own children 48% 32%
My parents 30% 39%
My partner 21% 26%
My grandparents 15% 1%
Other family members 13% 6%
My friends 8% 9%
My grandchildren 5% 19%
I’d prefer not to say 1% 0%

Source: PensionBee, April 2023. Based on a sample size of 1,000 respondents.


  1. Gov.uk
  2. All estimates assume an average graduate starting salary of £25,000 at age 21, 8% contributions, fees of 0.7%, salary growth of 2% a year and investment growth of 2.5% a year (above inflation).
  3. Retirement Line
  4. The Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association

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