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Carers UK prepares employers for new workplace rights

29 March 2007

New advice to help employers benefit from new law for carers.

When people return to work from the Easter break, new legislation will

be in place to give employees who care for adults the statutory right to request flexible working from their employers – described by Carers UK Chief Executive, Imelda Redmond, as "a win-win situation for both carers and businesses."

 

Carers who look after a disabled or chronically ill friend or relative make up over 12 percent of the UK workforce – that is one in eight people. There are around 2.6 million carers set to gain from the new law.

In preparation for the introduction of the new law, Carers UK has produced a new, free, resource pack for employers in close co-operation with the Department for Trade and Industry, British Gas, Acas, the British Chambers of Commerce and Action for Carers and Employment (ACE).

The resource pack is being launched today (Thursday) by Jim Fitzpatrick, DTI Minister for Employment Relations, at a DTI lunchtime seminar for stakeholders on Thursday 29 March.

The employers' resource pack draws on existing good practice by businesses in flexible working and shows how flexible arrangements can be designed for the advantage of both employer and employee. The resource pack contains a DVD which includes interviews with carers and employers who share their experiences implementing flexible working for employees with a caring responsibility.

A booklet for businesses, 'Caring for carers: the business case', has been produced. The booklet provides and signposts all the information employers will need in an easy-to-access way. It contains step-by-step guidance explaining the new measures which are designed to reflect changing needs and work patterns and to improve people's work-life balance. It sets out several options for flexible working – which include both time, such as going part-time or shift working, and location, which could mean home-working.

A new online self-assessment tool called 'Are you ready for the Act?' is also available. The online test is a quick and simple-to-use way for businesses to measure their understanding of and preparedness for the new flexible working rules.

Carers UK has set up a consultancy service for employers, providing in-depth advice on complying with the new law and demonstrating best practice in flexible working.

"Each year over two million people become carers – some overnight; some more gradually – so each day sees a new population of carers in the workforce", says Imelda Redmond, Chief Executive of Carers UK. "Many businesses are already seeing the benefits of flexible work patterns for their employees in greater staff retention, higher skill levels and cost-efficiencies. Good flexible working arrangements need planning but they need not be difficult."

Alistair Darling, Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, says:

"In seven days 2.6 million carers and their families will benefit from this new right. It is an important step and will make a real difference to those who give so much. More than 3.6 million people have the right to request flexible working for parents of young and disabled children.

"Those rights are being worked through closely with business, who increasingly realise flexible working makes sense for them. Flexible working is changing the workplace up and down the country for the better of families and business."

Phil Bentley, Managing Director of British Gas, comments:

"British Gas was one of the first UK companies to develop flexible employment policies to support staff with caring responsibilities. This makes it easier for employees to combine work and care, so they don't feel forced to choose between one or the other. Recruiting and training new staff can be expensive and unnecessary when a more flexible employment approach should ensure that existing, experienced people are retained."

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