The Carer’s Leave Bill has received Royal Assent, paving the way for workers who balance work with caring responsibilities to take up to five days of unpaid carer’s leave.
Under the Carer’s Leave Act, any employee who cares for a friend or relative will be given an annual carer’s leave, on top of their usual annual leave allocation.
A date for the implementation of the Carer’s Leave Act in England, Scotland and Wales is yet to be confirmed, but the earliest it could come into force is April 2024.
According to the Carers UK charity, an estimated two million UK employees are currently juggling paid work with unpaid caring responsibilities.
Chief executive Helen Walker said it was a historic moment for unpaid carers.
She said: “The evidence is clear: being able to take leave from work to support an older, disabled or seriously ill relative makes a huge difference to carers’ lives and can help them stay in paid work.
“Managing these dual responsibilities is often stressful and demanding. Being able to use Carer’s Leave will remove guilt for many workers needing to take some time out to care, or having to use their annual leave – their own rest time.
“There are big benefits for businesses too – those who have already introduced Carer’s Leave have seen reduced recruitment costs and improved staff retention and wellbeing.
“With our ageing demographic, and loved ones with illnesses and disabilities living for longer, the majority of us can expect to care for a loved one in our working lives. This legislation sets us up for the future and we hope it will see employers give greater consideration to the needs of carers in their workforces.”
Liberal Democrat MP Wendy Chamberlain, who introduced the bill, said many carers have had to cut back their hours or give up work entirely in order to care for a friend or relative.
The Carer’s Leave Bill has today passed its final stage in Parliament.
Lib Dems Wendy Chamberlain & Chris Fox's Bill will give 2.4 million carers across the UK a right to take five days of leave per year for caring.
This will help carers to better balance work and care. pic.twitter.com/wg8FkZuRYr
— Liberal Democrats (@LibDems) May 19, 2023
Dr Emily Andrews, deputy director for work at the Centre for Ageing Better, suggested the leave entitlement should be increased: “Ultimately we would want to see employees receive two weeks’ paid carers leave as a guaranteed right. But the new provisions mark a real victory for carers’ rights and will help thousands of employees to balance paid work and caring duties more easily.
“For many employers, carer’s leave will be their first carer-related policy. We hope that the Carer’s Leave Act will encourage employers to go even further in their support for carers who make such a significant contribution to our economy and society.
“Fewer than one in four carers are in full-time or part-time paid work and this number is even lower for women. This can be a real loss for carers, whose personal finances and career progression can be damaged by being out of work.”
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