Thousands of unpaid carers could be excluded from a new legal right to flexible working under proposals being considered by the government, campaigners have warned.
The right to flexible working for carers is included in the work and families bill currently going through parliament, but organisations are concerned that the government’s definition of “carers” is “too narrow”.
Under the proposals outlined in draft guidance on the bill, carers are defined as “immediate” relatives, including parent, guardian and son-in-law or “near relatives” including brother, brother-in-law, uncle, aunt or grandparent.
In response to a Department of Trade and Industry consultation on the guidance, the Equal Opportunities Commission argued that the definition “threatened to infringe the human rights” of a growing number of unpaid carers.
It said the guidance failed to recognise “the changing nature of ties in 21st century Britain” including broader kinship networks in ethnic minority communities, gay and lesbian carers, step-parents and friends or neighbours of single people.
Charity Carer’s UK told the DTI that all carers should be included “regardless of whether or not they are related” and claimed the government’s definitions were “arbitrary”.
It added: “The business case for flexible working is strong. Businesses retain employees and increase loyalty and widen the skills available to them when they currently offer flexible working.”
The consultation on the guidance closed at the end of last month. The work and families bill is reaching its final stages in parliament and is expected to get Royal Assent by the summer.