We have today expressed our concern and disappointment that the Queen’s Speech has missed another opportunity to help people looking after family members and friends who have a health condition.
It was hoped an Employment Bill would be forthcoming in the speech, including a new leave right to one week of leave per year for unpaid carers, something which was a manifesto commitment for the Government and promised back in 2019.
In its ‘Carer’s Leave Consultation – Government Response’* published in September 2021 it was stated, “The Government will introduce a new leave right to one week of leave per year for unpaid carers as an important measure in supporting the UK labour market and businesses to build back better.
“The insights and feedback received as part of the consultation have been important in developing a policy that meets the needs of the millions of people balancing employment alongside unpaid caring responsibilities, without putting undue burden on businesses.”
Miriam Martin, chief executive of carers’ charity Caring Together said, “People looking after family members are under huge pressure – physically, mentally and also financially.
“Just last year the Government itself acknowledged the need to act on giving unpaid carers the right to one week of leave, based on the findings of its own consultation. We are therefore extremely disappointed to see yet another failure to give carers the support they require and deserve.
“At Caring Together, we believe that the right to a week’s unpaid leave and better flexible working are just the starting point – this leave needs to be paid so that people aren’t financially penalised for being a carer. Too many carers are having to choose between their jobs and looking after the person they care for. In the middle of a cost-of-living crisis this is an unacceptable position for them to be put in. It impacts the carer, the person they care for and also employers as they will see valued and skilled people leaving the workforce. Up to 600 people a day are quitting work because of their caring responsibilities.
“This affects all of us – with three in five of us set to be a carer at some point in our lives, we will either be a carer, rely on the support of a carer, or will know someone who is a carer.
“Research has found that more than half of carers said they needed unpaid Carer’s Leave and that a further 1 in 7 workers who were carers were at risk of reducing working hours or giving up work altogether if they didn’t get it.***
“And this issue runs wider, including an impact on the NHS as if the carer cannot take time off work to be able to help someone when they are first discharged from hospital, or to prevent them being admitted then we will see more people in hospital when they don’t need to be. We also know that one in three NHS employees are juggling working with caring.**
“The Government needs to act on its own commitment without delay, and introduce this much-needed support to help carers, the people they care for, businesses and the NHS. It is also vital that for carers not able to work due to caring responsibilities that Carers Allowance is reformed. This whole approach to supporting carers needs to be encapsulated in a long overdue Carers’ Strategy.”
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*Details of the Government’s Carers Leave Consultation can be seen at www.gov.uk/government/consultations/carers-leave. This includes the Carer’s Leave Consultation – Government Response document available at assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/1019841/carers-leave-consultation-government-response.pdf
** Read “One in three NHS England employees juggle job with caring unpaid for a loved one – from April 2021 at www.carersuk.org/news-and-campaigns/press-releases/one-in-three-nhs-employees-juggle-job-with-caring-unpaid-for-a-loved-one
***Carers UK research from November 2021 – Supporting carers at work: opportunity and imperative – can be downloaded at www.carersuk.org/images/News_and_campaigns/Carers_Rights_Day/CRD_2021/CUK_Carers_Rights_Day_Research_Report_2021_WEB.pdf