A new law that could see employees across the UK gain the right to take up to one week of unpaid carer’s leave a year is a step closer to being enacted.
Today (21 October), the Carer’s Leave Bill passed its second reading in the House of Commons, securing vital government support. The second reading is usually considered the most important part of legislation’s progress, because it is where MPs debate the contents of a bill.
The Bill is now set to be scrutinised at the committee stage.
In May 2022, there was disquiet among MPs and campaigners that the measure, included in the Conservative manifesto of 2019, had not been included in the Queen’s Speech. But Liberal Democrat MP Wendy Chamberlain, sponsored a private members’ bill in June to achieve the same ends.
She said the legislation would help businesses’ retention rates and productivity: “This is a landmark day for carers around the UK, marking the first step to secure employment rights designed to help people care and work. Unpaid carers are the backbone of society and we must do all we can to support them. This is a vital part of that. It also benefits businesses: increasing retention rates, productivity, and loyalty. Passing this Bill will be a win-win.”
Helen Walker, chief executive of Carers UK, said the Bill was a “monumental step forward for unpaid carers juggling their work with care for a relative who is older, disabled or seriously ill”.
She added: “Carer’s leave also makes business sense: employers are better able to retain talent and skills within their staff teams and avoid additional recruitment costs and retention rates.
For Claire Hawkins, director of corporate affairs and investor relations at Phoenix Group and executive sponsor of Phoenix Group’s colleague Carers Network, the Bill partially fills a gap created by the absence of an Employment Bill:
“Given the deferment of the Employment Bill, moving this legislation forwards and achieving real change for the five million people in the UK – one in seven of the workforce – who are juggling caring responsibilities with work.
“There should never have to be a choice between caring for a loved one or going to work and it’s devastating to see that an estimated 2.6 million people had left the workplace to care for a relative or loved one.
“The government urgently needs to take action to bring forward this legislation that will provide carers with better job security through five days unpaid leave and, where possible, employers need to prioritise putting measures in place to retain and recruit people with caring responsibilities.
“At Phoenix Group we already operate a policy of 10 days paid carers leave, introduced in 2020, and I would urge all employers who can to act now and introduce a paid carer’s leave policy.”
In August 2022, the EU approved rules stipulating that all member states had to apply rules to improve work-life balance for parents and carers by transposing a Work-Life Balance Directive into national law.
The rules set out minimum standards for paternity, parental and carers’ leave, and have established rights such as working fathers being entitled to at least 10 working days of paternity leave around the time of birth of the child, compensated at least at the level of sick pay, and each parent being entitled to at least four months of parental leave, of which two months is paid and non-transferable. Parents can request to take their leave full time, part time, or in segments.
Latest HR job opportunities on Personnel Today