To mark this Carers Week 2019, Steve McCabe MP has called on the government to implement recommendations from Carers UK, the UK’s only national membership charity for carers, to provide carers with the right to 5-10 days of paid carers leave a year.
Steve McCabe is raising this in Parliament, asking the Government what progress is being made to introduce a statutory entitlement to short term paid leave, something the Conservatives promised to introduce in their 2017 manifesto.
The Birmingham MP thinks the government should go further and is also calling on them to consider providing carers with the right to take longer-term unpaid leave in order to care for dependants.
While some employers may choose to provide longer-term care leave to their staff, there is currently no statutory obligation for an employer to do so or for them to hold open an employee’s job while they e.g. care for an elderly relative. Carers UK have found that in the past two years, nearly half a million (468,000) people have quit their job to care for a loved one who is older, disabled or seriously ill. In a recent poll to uncover what workers would find most useful if they provide unpaid care, 75% said long-term unpaid leave was either ‘very important’ or ‘fairly important’. However, the same research found that only 20% of workplaces offered long-term unpaid leave.
The only existing statutory rights for workers are the right to time off for dependants as part of the Employment Rights Act 1996. However, this only provides for a ‘reasonable amount of unpaid time off’ and is generally only used for one-off appointments and emergencies. While employees with 26 weeks continuous service also have a right to request flexible working, they only have the right to make the request and employers can refuse. Longer-term leave for carers of several weeks or even months is increasingly common internationally, having been introduced in Spain, Canada, Ireland and the USA.
The Work and Pensions Select Committee, of which Steve is a member, recommended in their report published last May that there is a strong case for introducing 5 days’ statutory paid care leave. The Government response said they were exploring the case for statutory carer’s leave.
Steve McCabe said:
“We have an ageing population and a stretched social care system on the brink of collapse, it seems to me to be common sense that the Government should be supporting the increasing numbers of people who want to be cared for in their own homes by friends or relatives. Our 6.5 million carers across the UK deserve more and a good start would be to introduce a statutory entitlement to paid carers leave of up to 10 days. We also need to look at how we can follow other countries in introducing more long-term unpaid care leave so someone can spend time caring for a relative at the end of their life.
The Conservative Party committed in their 2017 election manifesto to providing workers with a new statutory entitlement to carer’s leave. Two years on we are faced with another broken promise. But the time for excuses has passed, we must support our wonderful carers and their loved ones and introduce proper carer’s leave now.”