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Today the Westminster government confirmed that the Carer’s Leave Act should come into force on 6 April 2024. The Act will give employees who provide care for a sick or disabled family member or friend a new legal entitlement to five days unpaid leave from work each year in support of their caring responsibilities. While this new right is expected to benefit over 2 million employees in England, Wales and Scotland – making it easier for them to stay in work while caring – it will not take effect in Northern Ireland because employment law is devolved to the Stormont Executive.

Responding to the news, Craig Harrison, Public Affairs Manager for Carers NI, said:

This important new legislation will see over 2 million unpaid carers in Great Britain receive new workplace rights, but with no Assembly to pass equivalent legislation, carers in Northern Ireland will once again be the poor relation. The stalemate in Stormont is harming carers’ rights in Northern Ireland and creating a postcode lottery of support across the UK. Every year, tens of thousands of people in Northern Ireland either reduce their working hours or leave the labour market entirely because of the demands of an unpaid caring role. This deprives them of vital income and is a massive contributor to the high rates of carer poverty we are seeing. Carer’s leave from work is an important tool to make it easier for people to juggle employment and caring, and it is unacceptable that local carers will soon be excluded from this new entitlement because of the political hiatus.”


Notes to editors

  1. The Carers Leave Act was introduced in June 2022 and received Royal Assent in May 2023. It will come into force in England, Wales and Scotland on 6 April 204. Full details on the Carers Leave Act 2023 are available here:
  2. In 2019, nearly 130,000 people in Northern Ireland either reduced their working hours or left their jobs entirely because of the demands of an unpaid caring role.
  3. Research from the Carer Poverty Commission shows that 55% of unpaid carers who are out of work are living in poverty, compared to 28% of all carers.
  4. In Carers NI’s 2023 State of Caring survey, over 60% of carers said being able to take unpaid carer’s leave would help them to balance work and caring.
  5. Carers NI is Northern Ireland’s membership charity for unpaid carers. We work to represent and support the over 220,000 people in Northern Ireland who provide unpaid care for ill, older or disabled family members or friends – fighting for increased recognition and support for all carers and to ensure they have a voice in policymaking.
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