As the UK population ages, the rights of unpaid carers is a growing concern. With over 5 million unpaid carers in the UK,  many individuals are having to balance paid work with their caring responsibilities – so what are the rights of unpaid carers in the UK?

Existing employment rights for carers

  1. Dependants leave

In the UK, employees are entitled to dependants leave. This allows employees a “reasonable” amount of time off to be able to deal with an emergency involving a dependant.

There is no set amount of time off for dependants leave- what is considered to be a reasonable will be determined by the employer.

  1. The right to request flexible working

Since 2014, all employees who have worked for the same employer continuously for the last 26 weeks have a right to request flexible working. Flexible working allows employees to work in a way that suits their needs. This may include, working part time, working from home, job sharing or working compressed hours.

Whilst employees have a right to request flexible working, there is no guarantee that employers will accept such a request. An employer is able to refuse a request if they have a good business reason for doing so.

  1. Unpaid parental leave

This allows parents a period of up to 4 weeks of unpaid leave during each year to allow them to spend time with their children.

  1. Statutory leave

All workers and employees are entitled to 5.6 weeks’ paid holiday per year.

The Government’s Consultation

Juggling paid work and unpaid care can have adverse employment consequences as well as a detrimental effect on health and wellbeing. As a result of the challenges faced by carers, the government launched a consultation earlier this year. The consultation focuses on supporting carers in their employment and caring responsibilities.

One proposal is to introduce a statutory entitlement to cares leave. Carers would be entitled to one week of unpaid leave each year. This would allow them to provide care during their normal working hours and would enable employers to reduce staff turnover as a result of carers leaving the labour market.

The consultation also looked at:

  1. Who would be eligible to take the new leave?
  2. What leave could be taken?
  3. How can the leave be taken?
  4. How could the request for leave be made?
  5. What would be the impact on both employers and employees?

Victoria Tallis, Paralegal

4 September 2020

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