UK

Care For Elderly Relatives? You Should Get Time Off Work, Says Hunt

24/08/2013 09:45 BST | Updated 24/08/2013 09:50 BST

Caring for elderly relatives should be a valid reason to work flexible hours, and bosses need to be accommodating the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has said.

Hunt said an impending "dementia time bomb" meant a change of attitude was urgently needed towards working carers, in an interview with the Daily Telegraph.

And with the number of people caring for loved ones who suffer dementia set to increase by a quarter up to 850,000, Hunt stressed that the economy would be hurt if they were forced to give up work.

elderly relatives

Caring for elderly relatives should be a valid reason to work flexible hours

He said: "A lot of employers have embraced flexible working policies, but some are simply not prepared for the scale of the dementia time bomb. None of us can afford to ignore this problem.

"Too many people feel unable to combine caring for a family member with working - this will only get worse as we face the consequences of a dementia time bomb."

The Health Secretary was speaking ahead of the publication next week of a report by the Department of Health, charity Carers UK and Employers for Carers which will claim £1.3 billion in public money could be saved each year through flexibility.

It comes after the 2011 census showed that there are about 6.5 million people in Britain with caring responsibilities, an increase of 10% over a decade.

Carers UK claims that two million of those people have left work entirely to care, with another three million reducing their working hours.

Legislation introduced by Labour already allows parents with young children and those who look after sick, frail or disabled relatives to request special working arrangements.

That includes working flexible hours, job sharing, part time work and the chance to concentrate work into certain times of the year or days of the week.