A substantial proportion of working age individuals in Britain are looking after sick, disabled or elderly people, often combining their work and caring responsibilities. Previous research has shown that informal care is linked with substantial opportunity costs for the individual due to forgone wages as a result of non-labour market participation. In this paper we show that informal carers exhibit further disadvantages even when participating. Using the British Household Panel Study (BHPS) we decompose wage differentials and show that carers can expect lower returns for a given set of characteristics, with this wage penalty varying along the pay distribution and by gender. Furthermore, opportunity costs from forgone wages and wage penalties are estimated and found to be substantial. (C) 2007 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.