Millions of people across the UK are currently providing unpaid care to dependent family members or friends. Around 2 million of these are thought to be balancing work alongside their caring responsibilities.
With no dedicated statutory leave entitlement in place for informal caregivers, many are forced to take various forms of leave to care for those who rely on them. However, things are changing. Under a new government backed law, employees who have caring obligations will now be entitled to unpaid leave.
Dubbed a landmark change in how businesses support their employees, The Carer’s Leave Bill which passed its second reading in Parliament on 21st October will, for the first time, give employees the right to take one week a year of unpaid leave to care for a dependent with long-term care needs.
Eligible employees will now be entitled to Carer’s Leave from the first day of their employment and regardless of length of service. They can use it flexibly to suit their caring obligations and there’s no requirement to show evidence of how the leave is used or who it will be used for, so a much smoother procedure for both businesses and their employees.
Business Minister, Dean Russell, said: “These reforms will not only better the lives of millions of unpaid carers across the UK, but also the friends and family that are dependent on their compassion every day.”
As there is limited information on the intricate details of the Bill, HR departments and businesses are having to interpret the details and procedures as best as possible until further guidance is released.
In the meantime, it’s crucial for employers to maintain open communication with staff members and foster an environment where they feel able to express their struggles, knowing that they will receive support from the organisation where possible.
So, how will this Bill affect businesses?
Employees who take their Carer’s Leave entitlement will be subject to the same employment rights as those associated with other kinds of family leave, protecting them from dismissal or any detriment as a result of taking time off.
As the Bill will make it easier for employees to support their loved ones, it’s expected that these new rights will mean higher staff retention and less employee turnover, saving companies time and money in recruitment and training costs. Evidence by Carers UK also shows that Carer’s Leave improves wellbeing by giving time off to those needing to attend appointments, arrange or provide care, while helping them to stay in work at the same time, easing some of the stress and worry that comes from juggling your job against the demands of caring for others.
If you are an employer and would like further advice on Carer’s Leave or any other HR policies, please contact hr inspire’s expert HR team – Hertfordshire’s leading HR consultancy which can bring your business the benefits, protection and experience of an entire HR department.