Unpaid carers taking leave from their jobs should be a normal part of working life, like taking a sick day or maternity leave after a baby, ministers have heard.
Lib Dem MP Wendy Chamberlain said she hoped her Carer’s Leave Bill would create a “huge shift” in how society thinks about caring responsibilities, as it cleared the Commons.
The Bill, which would give people with caring responsibilities a right to unpaid leave from work, was given an unopposed third reading by MPs and will now undergo further scrutiny in the House of Lords.
North East Fife MP Ms Chamberlain told MPs: “I have also heard from employers that believe this new employment right will be the catalyst for starting conversation about caring, that even within carer-friendly organisations, getting people to talk about their responsibilities, or even to simply recognise themselves as carers can be a challenge.
Ms Chamberlain cited statistics from the Family Resources Survey 2020-2021, to explain how widespread caring is to so many people.
She said: “There are approximately 4.2 million people across the UK who are providing unpaid care by looking after an elderly or disabled family member or another dependent and the majority of those individuals are women aged over 50.”
Under the Bill, unpaid carers who work will be able to take up to one week’s leave per year flexibly in small amounts.
The entitlement applies to all employees regardless of length of service and starting from day one of employment.
The Bill also aims to minimise the pressure on employees who have both work and caring commitments, and at the same time helps employers maximise the retention and wellbeing of their staff.
“In the words of Queen, they make the rocking world go round,” he said.
He added: “The fact is we have over four million people who are unpaid carers for loved ones in this country, and most of them women over 50.
“While we can all do everything we can as legislators to ensure that support for them is better than it is, that the process particularly for applying for help is smoother, the reality is that they are, as the honourable lady says, they are working all the hours that there are.
“Ultimately they are dependent on themselves and their own friends and family and the networks that they have to support them, and I honour them for everything they do.”
Business minister Kevin Hollinrake confirmed the Government’s commitment to the Bill, saying: “Carers’ leave is important to improve the quality of life for carers, but will also benefit those who depend on the care provided by unpaid carers.
“The Government is supporting this Bill, in line with our manifesto commitments.”