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Carers UK hails landmark case as millions of carers get protection at work

31 January 2008

Acarer has won the initial stages of her case at the European Court of Justice which could give new rights to millions of carers.

The Advocate-General agreed today that the carer Sharon Coleman suffered "discrimination by association". She had claimed that she was discriminated against and harassed because she had a disabled son.

Sharon Coleman claimed that her employer, London law firm Attridge Law, treated her less favourably than it did other parents of non-disabled children. Amongst other things, she was accused of being "lazy" when she needed to take time off to care for her child and threatened with disciplinary action.

Commenting on the case, Imelda Redmond, Chief Executive of Carers UK, said:

"This is a positive step towards true equality for carers. Too many carers face discrimination at work, yet they are the bedrock of our communities and society."

"This landmark legal opinion means that employers will have to alter the way they treat carers in their workforce. There are currently 2.5 million carers who are in work, yet one in five gives up work to care, meaning that we are losing thousands of people from the workforce every year. Every employer will have to look at their recruitment and employment practices and make sure they are not discriminating against carers. At a time when we have a shortage of skilled workers, this makes good business sense."

She continued:

"This is an important start, but we need to go further and ensure that carers are protected from discrimination in all aspects of their lives, not just employment. We think there should be a duty on public sector organisations to actively promote equality between carers and non-carers and that service providers should also be required to treat carers equally."

"The Prime Minister will publish his National Carers Strategy later this year and we are lobbying for it to include carers in the new equalities legislation which will be introduced next year. How we help families care for elderly and disabled relatives will be one of the biggest challenges of the 21st Century and Government has an opportunity to get the right laws in place to deal with it."

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