UP TO FIVE days of paid annual leave will be available for Stirling Council employees who provide support as unpaid carers, after a policy was agreed at the local authority.

The decision was taken by the council's Finance, Economy and Corporate Support Committee last Thursday, June 8, during Carers Week.

Staff can also apply for unpaid leave of up to 12 weeks if they are responsible for the care and support of a dependant who may be affected by long term illness, disability or addiction, or who may require regular help and practical assistance.

There are an estimated 10,000 carers in the Stirling area.

Stirling Council employs 4,500 full and part-time employees and 64 per cent of the workforce are aged 40 or over, an age demographic more likely to have caring responsibilities.

Cllr Margaret Brisley, convener of the committee, said: “Stirling Council is a responsible, forward-thinking employer and the wellbeing of our staff is of paramount importance.

“We know many of our employees, particularly women, provide care to others and we want to do all we can to support them.

“There will be no additional financial cost to the council with the introduction of the new policy.

“Any loss of productivity will be offset by the benefit of retaining staff longer through increased flexibility and supporting workers who may otherwise be feeling under pressure as they struggle to balance work and caring commitments.

“Carers often become engulfed by these competing demands and, as a result, may overlook their own needs.

“This policy will support the wellbeing of carers themselves and increase staff morale.

“We believe it’s the right thing to do.”

The local authority will be applying to become recognised as a Care Positive employer, an initiative from the Scottish Government that acknowledges employers in Scotland who have a working environment where carers are valued and supported.