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 is included in the Work and Families Bill, now going through parliament, but organisations are concerned that the government’s definition of carers is too narrow.
Under proposals outlined in draft guidance on the bill, carers are defined as immediate relatives, including parent, guardian and son-in-law, or near relatives, including brother, brother-in-law, uncle,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.
But the Equal Opportunities Commission said the definition threatened to “infringe the human rights” of a growing number of unpaid carers.
In its response to a Department of Trade and Industry consultation, 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 Carers UK said all carers should be included regardless of whether 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 April. The Work and Families Bill is reaching its final stages in parliament and is expected to gain royal assent by the summer.