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More time off from day jobs would help carers, says Bishop of Leicester

06 March 2023

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GRANTING carers the right to take a week’s unpaid leave from their day jobs would provide psychological, spiritual, and financial benefits, the Bishop of Leicester, the Rt Revd Martyn Snow, told the House of Lords last week.

Carers often face difficulties juggling responsibilities to their employers and to the people they look after, Bishop Snow said during a debate on the Carer’s Leave Bill, which would give up to two million carers the right to a week’s unpaid annual leave.

“The Bill is an important step forward in showing carers that, although their efforts may not be waged, they are very much valued,” he said. “It might not go as far as could be hoped . . . in that it provides for unpaid rather than paid leave, but it is undoubtedly a step in the right direction.”

Faced with difficulties balancing work and caring, carers often give up their jobs or reduce their working hours to continue caring, which creates additional financial pressure, Bishop Snow said. More than one million unpaid carers were already living in poverty, he told peers. Having the right to take additional leave because of their caring responsibilities would allow many to continue working, providing support for their well-being and household finances, he said.

Remaining at work was “all part of feeling that their lives have purpose, meaning, and consequence,” Bishop Snow said. At a recent meeting with carers, parents, and grandparents of children with special educational needs and disabilities, he had learned of the loneliness of being a carer, and the need for wider support networks, including colleagues at work.

There was also an extra benefit for everyone, as their skills, talents, and experience remained in the workforce. “This Bill should therefore be passed not as an act of pity, but as a recognition of our collective debt and gratitude to one another and our interdependence on one another,” he said.

Describing the Bill as “a step in the right direction”, he pointed out that the recent report Care and Support Reimagined: A national care covenant for England, from the Archbishops’ Commission on Reimagining Care, advocated paid leave for carers, and the right to request flexibility as part of a more radical and ambitious vision (News, 27 January).

Replying for the Government, Lord Johnson of Lainston, Minister of State in the Department for Business and Trade, described the Bill as “most essential” and “good for business”. He said: “We cannot afford for so many individuals to leave the workforce. Purely commercially, it does not make sense.”

He hoped that the legislation would change attitudes in businesses and individuals, “so that we can be proud to be carers, and businesses can be proud to have carers in their businesses and to support them in an appropriate way. Their importance to society must not be understated.

“I hope that, in future, for many unpaid carers, this new leave-right will make it that little bit easier to balance their work and caring commitments, and that their lives will be a little bit better for that. We have an opportunity here today to make a real difference.”

The Bill now goes to the Committee Stage.

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