Steve McCabe MP: The need for statutory carer’s leave
In Theresa May’s penultimate PMQs, I raised the crucial issue of the right to statutory carer’s leave and asked the prime minister if she has ensured her successor will fulfil her party’s manifesto pledge to Britain’s millions of carers.
In our report published in May 2018, the Work and Pensions Select Committee found that there is a strong case for introducing five days' statutory paid care leave.
The government response said they were exploring the case for statutory carer’s leave, yet over a year later, carers are still waiting. In their Carers Action Plan, the government say that they have set up an official level working group, but it is hard to see what, if any, progress has been made.
The current system is not fit for purpose and is letting down carers. The only existing statutory rights for workers are the right to time off for dependants as part of the Employment Rights Act 1996 and the right to request flexible working.
However, this only provides for a “reasonable amount of unpaid time off” and is generally only used for one-off appointments and emergencies. While employees with 26 weeks continuous service also have a right to request flexible working, they only have the right to make the request and employers can refuse.
We are way behind the curve: longer-term leave for carers is becoming increasingly common internationally, having been introduced in Spain, Canada, Ireland and the USA.
Our social care system is under immense pressure, and without the 6.5 million carers across the country, we would simply not be able to cope. With our ageing population, more and more people in the future will feel the need to take time off to care for elderly relatives.
Carers UK have found that in the past two years, nearly half a million people have quit their job to care for a loved one who is older, disabled or seriously ill. A statutory entitlement to paid carer’s leave would be a good first step towards helping carers remain in work while juggling their caring responsibilities.
That is why I have launched a parliamentary petition to get the government to act on this issue, and I will be making sure that the next prime minister does not duck his obligations.