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Carers UK: New rights will normalise flexibility at work

27 June 2014

The extension of working rights is an important step in helping workers to combine caring responsibilities for family members with paid employment, charity Carers UK says.

Changes to employment law which come into force on Monday 30 June 2014 will extend rights which are currently confined to specific groups with family responsibilities.

Prior to the change, only those who have children or caring responsibilities for older or disabled family members had the right to request flexible working – but with this extension, any staff member who has worked with their employer for more than 26 weeks will be able to request flexibility, for any reason.

Among the UK’s 6.5 million carers 3 million are in employment with many struggling to juggle work with caring for a loved one. Carers UK has warmly welcomed the extension, which will now include carers caring for friends or neighbours, who were excluded from the existing rights. Most carers already had the right to request flexible working, however an estimated 96,0001 carers were missing out, as caring responsibilities for some friends or neighbours were not recognised by existing flexible working legislation.

Carers UK, which co-ordinates business forum Employers for Carers, also argues that the extension of these rights will help to ‘normalise’ flexible working – so that people with caring responsibilities feel more able to come forward and ask for flexibility from their employers.

Heléna Herklots, Chief Executive of Carers UK said:

Some carers have been reluctant to request flexibility at work as they felt they were asking for special treatment. Now that all workers will have this right, we hope that workplace culture will grow even more accepting of staff requesting flexibility for a variety of reasons to balance work with different parts of their lives.

But this change isn’t just good for families. We know that the economy loses over £1.3 billion2 a year as a result of carers being forced to give up work to care, and employers pay the price in lost skills and experience. Providing support and flexibility for the 1 in 9 employees combining work and caring is good for business – improving productivity and staff retention and cutting the costs of recruitment and retraining.

Carers UK, whose research has shown that 2.3 million carers have given up work and 3 million have reduced working hours to care3 has also called for a new right to 5-10 days of paid ‘care leave’ to help workers take older parents to hospital appointments or care for seriously ill loved ones.

1 Estimates based on the General Household survey and impact analysis of the Work & Families Act 2006 indicated that around 4.5% of carers spending more than 20 hours a week were caring for a friend or neighbour living in a separate household – found in Carers UK (2006) Work and Families Bill, Carers UK response to the draft regulations, Terms and Conditions of Employment, Flexible Working – when this is applied to 2011 Census figures this represents 96,082 carers.

2 Pickard, L. (2012) Public expenditure costs of carers leaving employment, London School of Economics

3 Carers UK (2014) Caring & Family Finances Inquiry UK Report

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Steve McIntosh
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Maggie Stratton
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Notes to editors

Carers UK is a charity led by carers, for carers – our mission is to make life better for carers.

  • We give expert advice, information and support
  • We connect carers so no-one has to care alone
  • We campaign together for lasting change
  • We innovate to find new ways to reach and support carers

Employers for Carers (EfC) is an employers membership forum chaired by British Gas and supported by the specialist knowledge of charity Carers UK. It provides practical, ‘hands-on’, help to employers to support the one in nine carers in their workforce. Launched in 2009, Employers for Carers now has over 70 member organisations, representing at least one million employees across the public and private sectors. Member services include a dedicated website with a range of practical resources, networking facilities, model policies and case studies, resources for employers and employees and access to expert training and consultancy. For further information please visit

Existing flexible working: The legislation previously gave the right to request flexible working to parents of children under 17 or, if they were disabled, under 18 and to carers of spouses, civil partners or other co-resident partners or other relatives including parents, parent-in-law, adult child, adopted adult child, siblings (including those who are in-laws), uncles, aunts or grandparents and step-relatives. This excluded partners who did not live together and carers caring for friends or neighbours. 

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