Following the recent announcement of the Conservative Party’s likely manifesto, Theresa May is promising the “greatest expansion of workers’ rights”, and continued protection of the rights workers’ currently enjoy under European Union law if the Conservative government is re-elected later this year.

One of the most eye-catching pledges is a new statutory right to request up to 52 weeks’ unpaid leave to care for relatives who require full time support. This proposal will no doubt be welcomed by many. But is it anything new and will it work in practice?

Similar provisions already exist in countries such as Republic of Ireland, whereby employees are permitted to take carer’s leave of at least 13 weeks up to a maximum of 104 weeks. Under the recent proposals put forward by Theresa May, this right would however be limited to a maximum of 52 weeks in the United Kingdom and leave for this duration would be unpaid.

Although this proposal on paper appears to be a step in the right direction to expanding workers’ rights, whether or not this proposal will work in practice has yet to be seen. It will not be a financially viable option for many. We are also left with several unanswered questions including whether a worker will be permitted to work to supplement their loss of income during this 52 week period and in the event they are not permitted to work, and what state benefits will they be entitled to, if any? Furthermore, the impact this proposal will have on businesses is yet to be seen, with smaller and medium sized businesses, and organisation with highly skilled workers likely to be impacted the most.

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