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Government to consult on introduction of carers’ leave

Emma Lunn
Written By:
Emma Lunn

Proposals to tackle gender inequality include a new right for carers to have paid time off work.

Women and equalities minister Penny Mordaunt has set out plans to empower UK women. Her proposals, titled ‘Gender equality at all stages: A roadmap for change’, include a review of enforcement of equal pay legislation and improved information for parents around family friendly entitlements.

The proposals include a commitment to consult on the introduction of carers’ leave, something enjoyed in many other countries. According to the government, 60 per cent of the UK’s estimated 4.5 million total informal carers are women.

Mordaunt said that despite generally doing better in education, women are more than three times more likely to work part time, tend to work in lower paid industries and jobs, and have lower private pensions wealth.

Speaking to stakeholders this morning, she said: “I want everyone in our country to be able to thrive in life. That means being able to be in control of the choices you make and have the opportunities you have to seize. We must be honest that many women do not have those choices or opportunities, and as a consequence are not able to be as financially resilient or independent”.

“This inequality is faced at every stage of a woman’s life – from how she is treated in the classroom, to the caring roles she often takes on, and the lack of savings or pension she accumulates.”

At the moment unpaid carers can request flexible working hours, time off and leave for care, but paid leave is subject to negotiation between employers and employees.

Emma-Lou Montgomery, associate director at Fidelity International, said: “This could make a significant difference to the finances and the lives of those currently acting as carers in the UK. We know that women are more likely to take time off work to care for family – indeed, 16 per cent of women we surveyed were currently acting as an unpaid carer for a relative.

“This time off work not only puts women at a financial disadvantage now, but will have implications for their long term finances too. Unpaid time off means less time saving for retirement and is one driver behind the gender pensions gap. Paid leave would help women continue to save for their own future whilst caring for their loved ones.”

Other proposals Mordaunt announced include ensuring divorcing couples are aware of the benefits of pension sharing. Although 42 per cent of marriages end in divorce, only 36 per cent of asset sharing agreements include sharing of pensions, meaning women lose out on financial security later in life.