Right to unpaid care leave set to become law to help millions of people

A move to enable unpaid carers to take leave from their day jobs to help dependents is set to become law after clearing its final parliamentary hurdle.

Millions are set to benefit from the legislation, which will create a statutory entitlement for those looking after someone.

The Carer’s Leave Bill, which received cross-party and Government backing, would allow voluntary carers to take unpaid time off in either half or whole days of up to one week a year.

It would be a “day one right”, meaning it would be available to employees regardless of length of service, and include protection from dismissal or detriment as a result of having taken carer’s leave.

Liberal Democrat Lord Fox, who took the Bill through the Lords, said: “We know that caring can take many guises and providing unpaid care for a family member, friend or neighbour, a dependent is a reality for many millions of people across the UK and is something that almost everyone will experience either directly or indirectly through their lives.”

He highlighted research that showed unpaid carers in England and Wales contributed £445 million to the economy every day in voluntary work.

He added: “Staying in work while providing care for a relative or friend can be incredibly challenging.

“Latest estimates show that over seven million people in the UK are juggling work and unpaid care.

“Every year more than 1.9 million people in paid employment become unpaid carers.

“The stresses and strains of having to juggle paid work alongside unpaid care without the support they need has left many exhausted and burnt out and too often it is impossible for them to manage.

“As a result on average, 600 people per day have had to leave work because they need to provide care. Many others have had to reduce their hours.

“Research shows that having a supportive employer and the ability to take time off work to support their dependents can mitigate these pressures.”

Labour frontbencher Baroness Blake of Leeds said: “This is an important first step, there is still much more to do.

“I do want to emphasise that this is indeed referring to unpaid leave.”

She added: “This Bill will bring benefit to help relieve the stress and isolation that carers often experience, loneliness, impact on mental health and a disproportionate impact on women.”

Lady Blake also pointed out the law would benefit employers by reducing the risk of absenteeism and help retain staff.

Business minister the Earl of Minto said: “The Government appreciates the time dedicated by unpaid carers to help those who rely on them for their everyday needs. No one should underestimate the contribution unpaid carers make. They play a vital role in society, supporting those who are unable to care independently for themselves.

“Many provide this care whilst also holding down a job. We know there are some brilliant, supportive and flexible employers out there already who are taking steps to support those in their workforce with caring responsibilities, recognising the value to both their businesses and their employees of helping carers to stay in work.

“This Bill will extend aspects of what those employers do voluntarily to all employers, ensuring a baseline of support for all working unpaid carers.

“This will help alleviate the pressures that carers, particularly women who are more likely to provide care, can face as they seek to juggle their work and their caring responsibilities.”

He added: “It is a huge step in the right direction for our carers who give their time to help others who need it.”

The Bill, which has already been through the Commons, now goes for royal assent.

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