June 13, 2024

Unum Research reveals two fifths of UK parents and child carers missed healthcare appointments due to work pressures

Research* by employee benefits provider Unum has found two fifths (42%) of UK working parents and carers of children surveyed, had cancelled, or weren’t able to make a healthcare appointment due to work pressures. This figure is in stark contrast to employees without caring responsibilities; only 23% of whom have ever had to cancel or weren’t able to make an appointment. This highlights the disadvantage that working parents and carers of children are immediately faced with when it comes to achieving a good work-health balance.

In addition, 31% of parents and carers of children admitted telling their employer they were somewhere else, to cover up the fact they were attending a health-related appointment.

Reliance on face to face appointments also takes its toll too with over a quarter (28%) of parents and carers of children having had to take a full day off, either as annual leave or sick leave, for a 1-2 hour healthcare appointment.

The research, conducted at the end of last year, also showed the detrimental effect to the health of their children when waiting for an appointment, as well as the time it can take to be able to book an appointment in the first place. 61% of parents said they’ve had to wait a day or longer to get a doctors or specialists appointment for their child and, around half (47%) of those questioned reported that their own or their child’s condition had deteriorated while waiting for their appointment.

According to the Government’s Modern Families Index, 40% of families with one child were in full time employment (both parents working full time), and that 78% of parents are working beyond their contracted hours. Recognising how challenging access to healthcare support can be for workers and their children, Unum launched its Help@hand** app last year giving employees and their key family members*** easy access to remote GPs, second opinions, mental health support, an Employee Assistance Programme and physiotherapy. The app is available with all Unum Group Income Protection policies at no additional cost.

Unum UK Chief Executive, Peter O’Donnell, commented: “It’s worrying that family health is being impacted by work pressures leading to missed medical appointments. This year we’ve experienced the perfect storm of working parents and carers also juggling full-time schooling and childcare, and time will tell the long-term health impacts this may have caused.

“If, going forwards, employers want to build a healthy and productive work environment where employee well-being is paramount, it’s crucial they help working parents find a way to achieve a better work-health balance. With some form of remote working likely to be the norm for many for the foreseeable future, technology like the Help@hand app has proved incredibly effective and valuable. Unum will continue to provide an agile and responsive digital health service to our customers in these challenging times.

“By providing remote access to GPs, mental health and physiotherapy services, it’s immediately possible to make life easier for families to manage their healthcare needs. For many, a video call with a medical professional is all that’s needed to provide peace of mind, knowing that their own health is being looked after, as well as that of the children in their care.”

More than 165,000 employees currently have access to Unum’s Help@hand services.  Examples of conditions that people are using Help@hand’s Remote GP service for include skin complaints, joint and muscular problems, children’s health and stress or anxiety.

** Help@hand is available at no additional cost for insured employees as part of a Unum Group Income Protection policy

*** Partners can access all services. Children are eligible up to their 18th birthday (or 24th birthday if in full-time education) to access remote GP and second opinion services only. Children over 18 can access the EAP’s confidential helpline and online resources.


*The Unum study was based on a nationally representative sample of 2,031 fulltime adult workers aged 18+. Full-time work was defined as of 30 hours or more per week. Of the 2,031 respondent, 527 defined themselves as UK parents or carers of children.

The sample was recruited to match national labour characteristics for gender, age and region based on the April to March 2018/2019 Annual Population Survey published by the Office of National Statistics (ONS)