The Carers Leave Act: New law to guarantee five days leave for unpaid carers

ITV News' Catherine Walker spoke to carers about what the change in the law means for them.

A new law giving up to two million employees with unpaid caring responsibilities 'carers leave' has been hailed a "pressure release valve" from the "constant juggle".

The Carers Leave Act, which starts on 6 April, will enable unpaid carers to ask for up to five days leave from their employer - with it also protecting them from dismissal for taking the leave.

Carer Laura Barnes, from Rochdale, says it will relieve some of the unrelenting pressure.

She has had to strike a delicate balance between her full time job and her role as an unpaid carer for her Grandmother Joan.

"It’s a constant juggle," she said. "In fact I have basically two more-than full time jobs - that's how I sort of describe it.

"With the caring there's no weekends, evenings, or time off its just constant - so that's why think the Carers Leave Act will be that pressure release valve for people like me.

"I'll be able to focus on taking Grandma to hospital for example, or looking after her when she's sick, because these things rarely happen outside of office hours."

For carers like Laura, the new law will see them entitled to five days unpaid leave.

An unpaid carer is classed as anyone who cares for someone ill, disabled, older, has mental health concerns, or is experiencing addiction and is not paid by a company of local authority to do this.

Typically, an unpaid carer is looking after a family member or friend.

Under the Carers Leave Act, employees can take unpaid leave in full or half days, or in a whole block of five days, and must give advance notice that is twice the length of time that needs to be taken.

For example, an employee can take three days of leave as long as they give at least six days of notice.

The leave can be used to take care of someone who has a disability, needs care because of old age, or has a long term illness of more than three months.

It is a day one right - meaning employees are entitled to the leave as soon as they start work.

An estimated two million employees are in a similar position to Laura, and it is hoped this new law will allow them to stay in work while also acting as a carer.

Carers UK led the campaign that saw Carer's Leave be made a legal right, and consulted on the act as it made its way through parliament.

The director of policy at Carers UK, Emily Holzhausen OBE, said: "For the first time employers will have to think about unpaid carers in their work force.

"This is incredibly important because 600 people a day give up work because they’re unable to juggle work and care, so it's going to help people to manage their caring lives as well as stay in work."

Kate Palmer warned that a lack of knowledge surrounding the new law could result in problems for carers and employers.

However, Employment Services Director Kate Palmer has warned a lack of knowledge around the new law could cause issues for some employers.

She said: "I can honestly say I’ve spoken to many SME’s [small and midsize enterprises] of late who have no idea this is coming in.

"More awareness is needed, because carers have this right and its important they know about it.

"But also if employers don’t know about it they could absolutely be taken off guard by it and it may create risk for their businesses."

The new law will give carers official rights at work, while it is unpaid and may not help everybody, carers like Laura say they hope it will spark a wider conversation about how those who take care of others are looked after themselves.

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