Government considering ways to give carers more flexibility

The government has responded to recommendations put forward by the work and pension committee which included an additional five days’ statutory annual leave for workers with caring responsibilities.leave.

The committee’s recent report, which highlighted that almost one in nine UK workers were having to juggle caring responsibilities with paid work, suggested numerous policy ideas to significantly improve carer employment rights and help job retention.  Although most of the recommendations put forward have been rejected, the government has confirmed that steps are being taken to evaluate and improve working flexibility for carers and to consider an additional 5 days annual leave allowance.

Currently, all employees have the right to request for flexible working hours after 26 weeks’ continuous employment, which is something that 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’.

A Flexible Working Taskforce has also been established to look at ways of promoting more flexible working places.  The aim 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 has also confirmed its commitment to looking at the case for statutory carers’ leave. A Carers Action Plan was introduced in June which sets out the cross-Government programme of work 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 set up to assess the practicalities around introducing dedicated employment rights, such as additional leave, for carers.

Although this response shows that the government is open to considering some ideas, it has received much criticism from members of the committee, who claim it fails to take forward ‘the mildest of recommendations.’  Employers should therefore consider how they can support care workers within their organisation, so they do not lose otherwise valuable employees due to caring commitments.

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