Government outlines potential for exploring additional flexibility and leave options for carers

The government has responded to recommendations put forward by the work and pension committee which included an additional five days’ statutory leave

The committee’s recent report, which highlighted that almost one in nine workers across the UK were having to juggle caring responsibilities with paid work, suggested numerous policy ideas designed to significantly improve carer employment rights and help to ensure they retain their jobs. Although most of the recommendations put forward by the committee have been rejected, the government has confirmed that steps are being taken to evaluate and improve working flexibility for carers and to consider additional leave allowances.

Currently, all employees have the right to request for flexible working hours after 26 weeks’ continuous employment, something the committee suggests should available from day-one for carers. Whilst the government are not currently planning to introduce such an option they do believe that the right for flexible hours is key for carers in balancing their roles within employment and reaffirm actions to encourage more flexible practices within organisations, such as putting in place caring plans and agreements and selecting ‘caring champions’.

Furthermore, a Flexible Working Taskforce has also been established to look at ways of promoting more flexible working places and ensure that this option becomes a reality for all employees. The aim of the taskforce is to place responsibility on the organisation to offer flexible working, rather than on the employee to ask for it.

In responding to the committee, the government also confirms its commitment to explore the case for statutory carers’ leave. They evaluate that a Carers Action Plan was introduced in June which sets out the cross-Government programme of work aiming to support carers over the next two years. As part of the Plan, an official working group made up of representatives from different government departments has been established to evaluate the practicalities around introducing dedicated employment rights, such as additional leave, in order to ensure any proposals are effective. However, the committee’s recommendation that a full impact assessment be conducted into this area is not currently being considered, with the government outlining it is not yet at that stage of policy development.

Although this response shows that the government is open to developing current legal provisions for carers, it has received much criticism from the committee, who claim it has failed to take forward ‘the mildest of recommendations.’ Employers should therefore think about how they should support care workers within their organisation, ensuring that they are not losing otherwise valuable employees due to caring commitments.

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