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Carers must be better supported to stay in, or enter, employment through making the right to request flexible working a day one right and introducing paid carer’s leave, according to a report from the Work and Pensions Committee.
The report, Employment support for carers, highlights that the right to request flexible working only kicks in after six months of continuous employment and says more carers could be encouraged to enter the workforce if they could request such arrangements from day one. It also recommends the introduction, when resources allow, of five days’ paid carer’s leave.
It also calls for a tapering of benefits as income rises. It says many carers rely on the support of Carer’s Allowance, which is currently £64.60 per week, but it is withdrawn in full if an earnings threshold of £120 a week is breached, meaning that working additional hours can leave carers worse off. It says: “A pay rise can leave parents facing the choice between losing Carer’s Allowance and losing free childcare for their three or four-year-old which requires them to work 16 hours a week. These benefits system cliff edges are contrary to the Government’s objective of ensuring work always pays.”
While it says that Universal Credit will remove disincentives to work for many carers, this will take years and some could still face cliff edges. It recommends that the Carer’s Allowance is therefore withdrawn gradually as income rises, in line with the Universal Credit taper system. A further recommendation is for the earnings threshold to be linked to rises in the National Living Wage.
The report also calls for improvements in the information and support for carers and for the Government to lead by examples as an employer. It says Government departments should all adopt best practice in supporting the carers they employ, including participating in the Employers for Carers forum and using the Happy to Talk Flexible Working strapline for job vacancies. It also calls on the Government to publish departmental statistics relating to flexible working, carer’s leave, carer’s policies and levels of attainment in the new employer benchmarking scheme.