More than 600 people a day are leaving jobs to care for older and disabled relatives, campaigners have warned.
Carers UK says the figure has increased by more than 10% in six years, causing the number of people who have given up work to care to surge to 2.6 million.
Nearly half a million workers have left their jobs to look after loved ones in the last two years alone, the charity’s research suggests.
It also indicated that one in seven workers are now juggling their paid job with caring, marking a “dramatic” rise in recent years.
The charity is calling for the Government to introduce statutory care leave that it says could save the UK economy billions of pounds a year.
Helen Walker, chief executive of Carers UK, said the need to help workers who also care for loved ones was a moral requirement, as well as financial.
She said: “Better workplace support for people juggling paid work with caring for a loved one is becoming an increasingly important issue, with a growing need for employers to improve flexibility and, with an ageing population, support people to keep working for longer, contributing to better productivity.
“With 15% of the population now working and caring, there is a real social and economic imperative for UK businesses to adopt carer friendly workplaces.”
The charity is calling on the Government to improve conditions for people juggling work and care by introducing a new right of five to 10 days of paid care leave.
UK companies could save up to £4.8 billion a year in unplanned absences and a further £3.4 billion in improved employee retention, Carers UK said.
Ms Walker said: “Adequate care and support services are also a key condition for many people’s employment so it’s more important than ever that the Government’s forthcoming social care proposals deliver the high quality and affordable care services we need now and in the future.”
The charity’s research compared results from a poll of nearly 4,300 adults by YouGov with a similar survey carried out in 2013 and analysed other data.
– The number of those juggling work and care is around 4.87 million, compared to 3 million in the Census 2011.
– The number of people giving up work to care has increased from 2.3 million in 2013 to 2.6 million – nearly a 12% increase.
– The number of adults reducing working hours in order to care has fallen from nearly 3 million in 2016 to just over 2 million – a fall of a third.
– Those saying that unpaid caring had impacted negatively on their paid work has dropped from 10% in 2013 to 7%, suggesting that measures to support carers have been working for some in the workplace.
– Women were more likely to say caring had a negative impact on their work (9%).
– Paid care leave of at least five days per year could save the UK economy around £3.5 billion a year.