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Passing The Carer’s Leave Act

Wendy Chamberlain MP | TSB

4 min read Partner content

After being selected for a Private Members Bill in the 2022 ballot, I knew I wanted to use the opportunity to present something that would directly support people. That is why I chose to present a bill that would help offer carers a little more flexibility while raising awareness surrounding the vital, yet undervalued work that they do.

What law you would make if you had the Wendy Chamberlain MPopportunity is a common question when you're thinking about entering politics. But I have to admit that beyond this, I hadn’t given it much consideration until I was successful in the ballot in 2022. Having been contacted by a variety of charities and third sector organisations, I was clear that I wanted to present something that would have a direct impact on the people it would support, and have a chance of receiving Government support to become law.

It has been a long journey since I presented my Carers’ Leave Bill for the first time in 2022. Even following the Bill’s Royal Assent, we weren’t quite over the line. Just a few weeks ago I was on the committee which scrutinised the regulations to bring the Act fully into force, which I was relieved to see pass both Houses without amendment. It is with real excitement I can say that Carers Leave will come into practical effect from April 6th, as a result of luck, cross-party engagement, sector support, including from the bank TSB, and just a wee bit of perseverance. 

Being a carer and being cared for is something that almost every person will experience at some point in their lives. We may not realise we are carers. Helping out our loved ones is deeply ingrained in us. But all those regular acts – however big or small – count, whether it’s washing, feeding and dressing, or driving someone to a doctors appointment, doing the food shop for a housebound neighbour or picking up medication. The bottom line is that our society and our economy could not function without unpaid carers. 

But for all the benefit it gives to the recipient, and to society as a whole, carers are too often left without the support they need, both by Government and by businesses. This pushes people to leave work, or cut down on hours, increasing their financial vulnerability, and often impacting on their own health. We know that unpaid carers are often women, and having caring responsibilities is a factor in both the Gender Pay and Pension Gaps. The Carer’s Leave Act is one small part of that, offering 5 days of unpaid leave each year, just to make everything that bit more manageable. It’s the first step towards integrating unpaid caring at home with the ability to go to work. 

Meeting carers in North East Fife, it was clear that for too many caring meant they had had to leave work and prioritise their caring responsibilities. For those who had been able to combine work with caring, the support of their employer had been vital. I firmly believe that supporting and retaining carers within their workforce is good for employers too.

Through the Employers for Carers programme supported by the charity Carers UK, I have met companies like TSB who have told me of the benefits they experience because they support employees who are carers, from increased colleague morale to improved retention. Their Carer’s Passport, for example, enables colleagues to have an open conversation with their manager about their caring responsibilities and get access to 70 hours paid leave.

Whilst the new law only requires businesses to offer unpaid leave, the evidence from businesses such as TSB suggests that offering a longer period of paid leave also offers an economic benefit. This shouldn’t be the preserve of larger employers. We must support SMEs and others to value and encourage unpaid carers into and staying in employment where their circumstances allow.

April 6th will be a landmark day for carers having a statutory employment right for the first time. But this is not the end, it is the beginning: for businesses, in identifying and understanding the needs of their carer employees; for carers, seeking the support they deserve; and for politicians, looking for the next step in supporting those without whom our society truly wouldn’t function. 

TSB is proud to be recognised by Carers UK as a Carer Confident and Carer Positive employer.

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