The Prime Minister, Theresa May, announced recently that workers will be given a legal right to have up to a year off from their jobs in order to care for elderly relatives if the Conservatives are elected into power, otherwise known as unpaid care leave.
This new statutory right means that, as with cases of maternity leave, workers’ jobs will be secured while the employee is away caring for their elderly relative. However, unlike maternity leave, care leave under a Conservative government will be unpaid.
This newly announced plan comes as the mounting concern about the scale of the social care crisis threatens to be a sticking point for both May and Corbyn heading into the election. Roughly one in four middle-aged people are caring for elderly parents, according to original research done by Citywire, with 2 million people in the UK spending more than 50 hours a week looking after their loved ones.
The plans were announced under a wide range of reforms to workers’ rights as the Conservatives look to capture some Labour voters who feel disenfranchised by Jeremy Corbyn. Unpaid care leave was one of eleven reforms promised by the Conservatives.
The Conservatives have announced that they will consult with businesses to work out exactly how long the period of care leave should be. However, sources have said that the leave will be similar to how it works in other countries. For example, in Ireland, workers are permitted to take between 13 and 52 weeks’ leave to care for their family member full-time, whilst still keeping their employment rights during that time.
Many have criticised the Conservatives’ plan for unpaid care leave – saying that the Conservatives have completely missed the point of care leave if it is unpaid. Many carers themselves have expressed dismay at the plans, and the Conservatives have been accused of a half-baked rebrand.
The unfortunate reality of the situation is that a lot of people are caring for elderly relatives, which means that they spend a lot of time missing work, or have to take part time jobs as they have to care for their parents and children at the same time – in what has been dubbed the ‘sandwich generation’.
But will people be able to take unpaid care leave?
Many will find that they are unable to take a year off work without pay. The BBC highlighted some cases where unpaid leave will not be feasible for many.
One case they highlighted was Sue Tilbury, who cares for her husband Jason, whilst also looking after their 15-year-old son. Jason has epilepsy and needs significant care, according to Sue.
“The actual seizures only last five or 10 minutes but it’s the recovery time,” Sue told the BBC.
In some cases of epilepsy, such as the kind that Jason has, the seizures can cause hallucinations that are sometimes so severe that Jason will require hospital treatment afterwards.
“I don’t think the government understand how difficult it is to live with a disability,” Sue said.
“And what are people who do work meant to do without pay for a year? I’m constantly worried about our finances. Carers’ allowance isn’t enough. You can’t live on that.”
This hammers home the real issue that many will face. While a lot of people are caring for either elderly relatives, or disabled people close to them, they won’t necessarily be in a position to take unpaid time off work. Many will face financial pressures already, so unpaid leave will not be possible for these people.
With less than a month to go until the general election, it is now on the Labour party to come up with a strong plan to combat the proposed ones by the Conservatives in order to secure votes in traditional Labour heartlands.
What do you think of the proposed plans? Do you think unpaid care leave will help those who need it the most? Let us know in the comments below, or drop us a line on Facebook or Twitter. Remember that if you’re stuck in a financial emergency, you can always apply for an online loan through Cash Lady – we’re here to help you.