A Member of Parliament (MP) expressed her joy after Parliament approved her proposed law allowing carers to take time off work without pay. Wendy Chamberlain, a member of the Liberal Democrats, received final approval for her bill in the House of Lords on Friday, with support from other MPs and peers.
The Carer’s Leave Bill permits unpaid carers to take leave for either half or full days, up to a maximum of one week per year. This new entitlement applies to employees regardless of their tenure with a company. The law will not be effective in Northern Ireland, as employment legislation there is managed separately.
The legislation, previously endorsed by MPs earlier this year, is expected to be enacted in 2024. The new law could benefit millions of people, as the Office for National Statistics estimates there were five million unpaid carers in England and Wales in 2021. According to the bill’s provisions, carers will not be required to provide evidence when requesting leave.
The legislation ensures that carers’ leave receives the same employment protections as other types of family-related leave, such as parental or bereavement leave. For example, employees would be protected from being dismissed if they take this leave.
The government, which supported the bill, has estimated that becoming familiar with the new policy would cost businesses £4.7 million, and there would be additional costs of £40 million per year due to staff absence and administration.
Speaking in favour of the bill, Labour’s Baroness Blake of Leeds argued that it would benefit employers by increasing staff retention and reducing turnover.
Liberal Democrat Lord Fox highlighted research by Carers UK and the University of Sheffield, which stated that unpaid carers in England and Wales contribute £445 million to the economy every day.
“The pressures of having to balance paid work with unpaid care, without the necessary support, have left many exhausted and burned out. Often, it becomes impossible for them to manage,” he said.
Allowing workers to take time off would prevent employees from being forced out of their jobs due to their caregiving responsibilities.
The Business Minister, the Earl of Minto, described it as a “significant step in the right direction,” particularly benefiting women who are more likely to provide care.
Wendy Chamberlain, the Liberal Democrat MP who introduced the bill in the House of Commons, stated that she would have preferred the leave entitlement to be longer and paid.
However, she acknowledged that the bill was “an important initial step in establishing these rights in law.”