Hats off to Aviva Insurance for jumping the gun by offering additional leave entitlement benefits to its worker carers. First mooted by the Tories in their election manifesto when they pledged to “start consultations”, Aviva lead the way by implementing their own scheme voluntarily.
After a successful pilot scheme in Bristol, Aviva is now offering its 16,000 UK workers the same leave entitlement for carers that parents of new born or adopted children already have by right. Maternity leave has been a statutory right for some time now, in 2015 extended to the biological father or mother’s husband or partner through the Parental Leave and Shared Parental Leave provisions.
From 2nd October UK Aviva staff have been entitled to take four weeks’ unpaid leave each year to care for incapacitated relatives. In addition they will be able to take an additional 5 days’ paid leave for planned events such as attending a hospital appointment with the person who is being cared for, and a further 5 days’ paid leave for emergencies. This brings the benefits for carers up to and beyond those enjoyed by new parents.
Aviva is the first large employer to recognise that the staff on employees who have to care for other family members including those suffering from dementia are as great or greater than those of new parents.
According to the Carers Trust charity, over 4 million workers, or 1 in every 8 of the UK workforce, are also responsible for caring for a relative. Three out of every five of us will at some point be caring for someone else.
Research carried out by Censuswide found that nearly one in four workers hadn’t told their employers about their caring commitments because they were worried about their future career prospects, or because their colleagues might think they weren’t “pulling their weight”. The research revealed that 83% of working carers believe they should be treated in the same way as parents, in terms of unpaid leave and other parental policies.
Earlier this year the Conservative Party included in its election manifesto a pledge to extend parental benefits to workers responsible for looking after a disabled or elderly relative. Aviva should be applauded for taking this initiative and their scheme should assist the Government in a rapid implementation of an important election promise.