From education to employment

Millions of unpaid carers granted new employment rights as Carer’s Leave Act comes into force

younger person holding arm of elderly gentleman, both sitting down
  • 976,000 people with unpaid caring responsibilities working in the public administration, education and health sector – majority will benefit
  • All employers will have to offer new right.

There are a staggering 976,000 people working in the public administration, education and health sector who also have unpaid caring responsibilities for older, chronically ill or disabled relatives and friends. 

New research by charity Carers UK highlights just how many people within the sector are juggling work and care. The majority of this group are employees set to benefit from a new right to take up to five days unpaid leave when the new Carer’s Leave Act comes into force on Saturday 6 April 2024.

Around 1 million employers will have to make sure that employees who are carers have access to unpaid leave

Across Great Britain, 2.3 million workers with unpaid caring responsibilities in Great Britain will gain these new rights.  Around 1 million employers will have to make sure that employees who are carers have access to unpaid leave and implement the law. The new rights are particularly important as previous Carers UK research shows around 600 people a day give up work to care due to a lack of flexibility and support.   

With 317,000 directors, managers and senior staff juggling employment and caring responsibilities, this is an issue faced by employees throughout organisations, from the Board to the most junior member of staff.   

The sectors with the highest numbers of unpaid carers set to benefit from these rights are public administration, education and health (976,000). This is followed by distribution, hotels and restaurants sector (443,000) and financial, real estate, professional and administrative (396,000).   

In terms of job role, 19% of people in employment who are unpaid carers are in professional occupations and 14% in caring, leisure and other service occupations.   

Employees who are carers will be able to take up to 5 days unpaid leave

For the first time, employees who are carers will be able to take up to 5 days unpaid leave to better balance work with caring responsibilities each year for arrange or provide forseen and planned care. Employees can take time off in full or half days, or in a whole block of five days. Those taking time off will have the same employment protection associated with other forms of family-related leave, such as protection from dismissal as a result of having taken the leave.  

Charity Carers UK, which led the campaign for those juggling work and unpaid care, has seen support for the new legislation from employers, unpaid carers, other stakeholders, unions, representative bodies and unpaid carers.  

Helen Walker, Chief Executive of Carers UK, said: “The Carer’s Leave Act coming into force is a huge step forward for millions of carers, which recognises the vital importance of their caring role and empowers them to ask for support in the workplace – in the form of unpaid Carer’s Leave – knowing that they have a legal entitlement to this. 

“Juggling work with caring responsibilities isn’t easy and without the right support, this can take its toll. Too many skilled and valued workers are leaving employment due to the stress of juggling and unpaid care.  

“Now every employer in the country must recognise carers in the workplace, employees can be confident speaking about their caring role – kickstarting a crucial conversation about the support they need to stay in work, which matters not just for carers, but for employers and the economy, too.”   

Chris O’Shea, Group Chief Executive at Centrica, owner of British Gas, said: “Carers do amazing work, most of it unseen. Juggling a job and caring can be a real struggle, emotionally and financially, which is why we’ve worked with Carers UK for the last twenty years to help demonstrate the economic case for supporting carers in the workplace.

“At Centrica, we provide paid carers leave, flexible working and a support network for our working carers. Not only is it the right thing to do, there is a clear business case for supporting carers, including better colleague satisfaction and retention. The introduction of five days statutory carer’s leave through the Carer’s Leave Act is a great step forward and will make an enormous difference to all working carers in the UK’.” 

To ensure that unpaid carers are aware of their new rights under the new legislation, Carers UK has created new free information and advice resources which can be accessed here.

To ensure employers are aware of what is required of them as employers, Carers UK have created a new guide. For more information visit the Employers for Carers website.   

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