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New carer’s leave law is welcome but needs to be paid to make a real difference says Usdaw

Health / Mon 8th Apr 2024 at 07:13am

RETAIL trade union Usdaw welcomes a new law that gives people with caring responsibilities a right to unpaid leave from work, which comes into force tomorrow. While welcoming this as a step in the right direction, Usdaw continues to call for the leave to be paid.

From 6 April 2024, employees will have a statutory right to a week’s unpaid leave to care for a dependent. The carer’s leave regulations allow up to five days off each year to provide care for people who are elderly, are disabled or have an illness or injury lasting more than three months.

Employees using the leave must take a minimum of half a working day at a time; a working day meaning the employee’s usual working pattern. There is no need for the leave to be used on consecutive days, so that could be five separate days over a 12-month rolling period.

Paddy Lillis – Usdaw General Secretary says: “We know that members who are providing care find it difficult or very difficult to take time off work and very often run out of options quite quickly. We therefore welcome that carer’s leave has now received statutory recognition. However, without pay I am concerned it will make little practical difference to the daily struggle of carers to juggle their paid work with their care commitments, particularly now given the ongoing cost of living crisis when most members cannot afford to lose any income. So, we are now campaigning to build on the right by attaching pay to it.

“The vast majority of care in the UK is provided by family and friends, who make up the UK’s 6.5 million carers and without their willingness and ability to provide care, local authority social services and the NHS would collapse under the strain. All too often carers feel life is a pressure cooker of competing demands, with worries about money, time off work, their own health and that of the person they are caring for.

“Usdaw has long campaigned for measures to lift the pressure on working carers with a statutory right to paid carer’s leave, improving protection from discrimination and redundancy, along with raising the rate of Carer’s Allowance and extending its reach. Carers deserve to have their invaluable contribution properly rewarded and recognised.”

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