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A right to paid care leave

Carers UK has been campaigning for better carers’ rights for over half a century.

Our aim is to ensure that carers are able to work and care at the same time if they choose to do so, and to return to work without being penalised for caring.

The latest figures show that almost 5 million people already juggle paid work and unpaid care – around 15% of the UK population. This is a dramatic increase compared with the previous Census 2011 figures of 3 million.

This rise demonstrates that better workplace support for carers is becoming an increasingly important issue. Government needs to ensure carers have the right to request paid care leave, and employers need to improve flexible working practices to ensure that carers can work if they want to.

The UK is lagging behind other countries when it comes to workplace rights and it’s time our workplaces reflect the reality of our lives.

We want all carers in employment to have a right to paid Care Leave of at least 5 to 10 days.

We would also like to see Government and employers explore longer term leave options as well as more flexible working practices, which would better enable carers to remain in work.

What’s the evidence? Why do carers need new workplace rights?

Our latest research reveals that 2.6 million have quit their job to care for a loved one who is older, disabled or seriously ill, with nearly half a million (468,000) leaving their job in the last two years alone - more than 600 people a day. This is a 12 per cent increase since Carers UK and YouGov polled the public in 2013.

Read more about our latest research.

Why do so many carers have to give up work to care?

There are many and often multiple reasons why people give up work to care:

  • Health, well-being and stress as a result of juggling many responsibilities;
  • Insufficient good quality, appropriate or affordable care, or housing to allow their relative to be supported well;
  • Lack of flexibility or understanding at work over working arrangements;
  • A lack of information about what financial support they’d be entitled to;
  • Inadequate leave entitlements to manage paid work and caring.

What is the impact of carers having to give up work to care?

Carers are taking a big financial hit– including the risk of financial hardship and debt. These can cause long-term damage to their careers and pensions.

This isn’t just about individuals. Previous estimates also indicated that the cost to the economy of carers being forced to give up work to care showed had reached £5.3 billion in lost tax revenues and earnings and additional benefit payments.

What would help carers to better juggle paid work with unpaid care?

Asked what support from their employer would be most important if combining their job with providing unpaid care, workers said:

  • Supportive line manager/employer;
  • Option to work flexibly;
  • Five to 10 days paid care leave.

What has Carers UK done so far and what will we do next?

Supporting carers

We provide expert information and advice working carers to help them get the support and help them make informed decisions about reducing hours, leaving or returning to work.

Working with employers

Our employers’ forum, Employers for Carers, now has a membership of over 115 organisations from a wide range of sectors, and a reach of over 1.5 million employees. It exists to develop and promote best practice.

In January 2019, Employers for Carers launched Carer Confident, the first UK-wide employer benchmarking scheme of its kind – and in Scotland we’ve worked with the Scottish Government to develop an accreditation scheme, Carer Positive, which has been adopted by 100 employers so far.

Our workplace volunteers also raise awareness and help to connect working carers together for support.

Researching and influencing

We’ve published evidence on carers’ experience of combining work and care, of international evidence of how paid care leave works in other countries and what the benefits might be for business, carers, their colleagues and the economy.

We have looked at changes that would help carers receiving social security support keep in touch with the labour market without missing out on financial support.

We shared our evidence to inform policy making across a number of different areas, including: the Government’s Cross-Government Action Plan on Carers, the Independent Review of the State Pension Age, the Government’s Industrial Strategy, and several Select Committee inquiries looking at support for working carers.

What is Carers UK doing next?

We will continue to press for a right to paid care leave.

A number of organisations have a shared goal to see improved workplace rights for carers and we will continue to work with others to press for change.

Further information

Read our latest research report, “Juggling work and unpaid care” (February 2019)

Read our response to the Cross Party Report from MPs on support for working carers (May 2018)

Read our response to the Work and Pensions Committee's Support for Carers Inquiry (January 2018)

Further reading: Case for Care Leave - Impact on Business (2014) and Case for Care Leave (2013)

Contact us

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