Did you know that there’s a significant new workplace legislation coming into force for employees in your workforce?
In May 2023, the Carers Rights Act was passed which will give employees who balance work with an unpaid caring role the right to up to five days unpaid Carer’s Leave each year to provide or arrange care. As the first workplace right uniquely for those carrying out a caring role, this is a historic and positive change for employees and, we strongly argue, for employers.
This Carers Rights Day (23 November) is an opportune time to talk about how we can get better at retaining our workforce. Every single day, around 600 Carers quit work to concentrate on an unpaid caring role. Leaving the labour market places a huge financial and emotional toll on Carers, and presents a significant challenge to businesses across the UK who face high recruitment and training costs. Yet, with the right workplace support, many of these would be able to remain in work successfully. With the average age of taking on an unpaid caring role at 45 – 64 years, many working Carers are long-serving and valued team members you will want to retain.
The Carer’s Leave Act will directly empower more staff to remain in paid roles that they may otherwise have considered leaving – research shows that the ability to take time away from work to provide care for someone living with a disability or serious illness makes a significant difference to Carers’ lives, reducing stress and worry and providing a practical means for them to provide care. You may wonder how Carers currently manage – the answer is, by stretching themselves ever thinner. Ask a member of your workforce if they have ever used annual leave to carry out their caring role, and you’ll find that for many the answer is ‘often’.
This new Act will also be a platform for many employers to think more about the Carers amongst their workforce and take active steps to identify and empower them to successfully balance both roles. With 1 in 7 workers in the UK balancing work and care, the more we can do as employers to support them, the greater the rewards we will reap. As a Carer-centred provider, you won’t be surprised to learn that we at Forward Carers offer our working Carers five days’ paid leave each year. You may be amazed to know that the take-up on this is less than 10%! For many Carers, having a safety net is enough.
Preparing for the Carer’s Leave Act
The new Act could come into force as early as April 2024. The finer details have yet to be published, so for now we know that Carers for someone who has care and support needs due to an illness, disability or frailty likely to last more than three months will be able to advance book up to five days’ leave each year to carry out their caring role. It is likely this will be able to be taken in, at a minimum, half-day allocations and there will be an expectation that the request will be approved.
You may have lots of questions like ‘how do I know who is a Carer?’ and ‘how does this fit in with our other policies?’. We’ll be running sessions for employers to find out more about supporting working Carers, including preparing for the Carers Leave Act in the coming months. Join our mailing list and find out about our Carer Friendly Workplace training and certification.
In the meantime, a great starting point you can do right now is to download our Carer Aware in the Workplace toolkit. Use this Carers Rights Day as an opportunity to raise awareness of the caring role among your staff and to encourage them to tell you that they are in a caring role. Knowing how many Carers are in your workforce and having conversations about any barriers they are facing in juggling both roles, is a great way to start working towards becoming a Carer Friendly Employer.