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'Upstairs downstairs' Britain is back: One in four homes hire domestic help

Press release: 19/04/2012

  • Over a quarter of Brits (28%) currently employ help around the home
  • One in ten (11%) of these say that longer working hours mean they don’t have enough time in the day to get all their chores done
  • Almost a third (29%) who have hired help admit they failed to check references and a similar number (30%) have given out keys to their home
  • Brits pay out £40 a month on average ‘cash in hand’ to domestic help


British attitudes towards hiring ‘help’ around the home are changing and the 'Upstairs, Downstairs' lifestyle is no longer the preserve of the privileged few.

Despite the challenging economic climate, over a quarter (28%) of modern-day households now employ help around the home on a regular basis to do the cleaning, odd jobs, look after the children or keep the garden tidy, according to research from LV= home insurance.

The trend is strongest among households with children with nearly a third (31%) of families now regularly hiring help around the home. But its not just parents who are relying on an extra pair of hands to help, in fact over a quarter (28%) of those living alone say they regularly hire people to help around the house while juggling a busy career and social life.

Among those who currently hire help, two thirds (66%) have window cleaners, nearly a fifth (17%) have gardeners and one in six (12%) have house cleaners. Yet those employing help are a far cry from the lavish lifestyles of the characters in 'Downton Abbey'. In fact, 40% of those employing a home worker have a household income of £28,000 or less.

Those working in the home are usually left unsupervised for long periods of time and there is always a possibility that they could accidentally damage the home or its contents. Despite this, nearly a third (29%) admit that they never check the references of their employees and 30% have given them keys to their home. Nearly half (47%) of those who've hired help paid them directly without any formal invoice –paying out £40 'cash in hand' to workers each month on average.

LV= home insurance recommends that those looking to employ people to work in their homes always check references and go through an accredited agency with a vetting process and ensure their insurance policy covers them for any accidental damage caused by hired help.

The trend is being driven by longer working hours and the need to free up spare time to enjoy life and maintain a good work-life balance, rather than spend time doing housework. More than one in ten Brits (11%) admit that longer working hours limit the spare time they have to maintain their homes and one in twenty (5%) say they prefer to spend their free time enjoying themselves rather than doing chores.

John O'Roarke, managing director of LV= home insurance, said: "Employing someone to help out in and around the home is no longer a luxury only afforded to the privileged few. With millions of people working longer hours, employing a helping hand is increasingly seen as a necessity to ensure a good work-life balance. However when hiring someone to work in your home it is important to thoroughly vet people and check the conditions of your home insurance to ensure you are fully protected."

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Notes to editors:

All research unless otherwise stated undertaken by ICM. Total sample size was 2017 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 17 February – 19 February 2012. The ICM survey was carried out online. The ICM figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).

1. 28% of people employed a home-worker in the past 12 months (13,272,000 Brits), each saying they pay an average of £549 a year (or £45.75 each a month) ‘cash-in-hand’ to these workers.

About LV=

LV= employs over 5000 people and serves around five million customers with a range of financial products. We are the UK’s largest friendly society and a leading financial mutual.

When we started in 1843 our goal was to give financial security to more than just a privileged few and for many decades we were most commonly associated with providing a method of saving to people of modest means. Today we follow a similar purpose, helping people to protect and provide for the things they love, although on a much larger scale and through a wide range of financial services including insurance, investment and retirement products.

We offer our services direct to consumers, as well as through IFAs and brokers, and through strategic partnerships with organisations such as ASDA, Nationwide Building Society and a range of trades unions.

LVFS is authorised and regulated by the Financial Services Authority, register number 110035. LVFS is a member of the ABI, the AFM and ILAG. Registered address: County Gates, Bournemouth BH1 2NF.