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Paid leave for working carers

Napthens - August 22nd 2018

Currently there is no legal obligation placed upon employers to pay their employees for time off from work due to their care commitments. As a result this has left many employees needing to either use up their holiday entitlement or take unpaid leave in order to fulfil their care commitments.

At the start of the year there were an estimated 2.8 million informal carers in the UK, which equates to one in nine of the UK’s workforce. Due to the demands that are often placed upon them, one in six carers have reported that, at some point in their lives, they have had to give up their job in order to allow them to focus on their care responsibilities. Three million have been left with little choice other than to reduce their working hours in order to juggle both their responsibilities at work and providing care.

However, last month in response to the Work and Pensions Committee’s recommendations regarding support of working carers, the Government have set up a working group to explore the recommendations. One such recommendation is the introduction of 5 days’ statutory paid leave for carers.

Another recommendation put forward was for the right to request flexible working to be made available from day one. Currently employees must have at least 26 weeks’ service before they are able to request flexible working. Whilst the Government haven’t strictly accepted this proposal, they have instead elected to set up a task force to explore how flexible working can be promoted to both employees and employers. The task force shall also consider how to bring about the Government’s call for all jobs to be advertised as being flexible.

However, the Government’s response has been criticised by the committee, alleging that they have “only paid lip service to an issue that is central to the lives of millions of people”.

Whilst, there has been no change brought about just yet, employers should be aware of the possibility that such changes could be brought into force in the near future. In the meantime, it would be prudent to consider how you could support any informal carers within your business  through means such as flexible working and discretionary paid leave.