Real Employment Law Advice

Employees right to unpaid carers leave

You will no doubt have heard in the news of various proposals to change employee rights and make changes to the way current rights work.

As part of the Government’s bid to support the labour market and help businesses ‘build back better’ from the COVID-19 pandemic, another change that has been announced is the introduction of a right to unpaid carers leave for a period of up to one week.

There has been a significant drive behind this proposal to help those who work and also have caring responsibilities. In the response to the consultation, it was noted that women are often still the primary carers and so tend to be disproportionately impacted.

The announcement follows a consultation on the proposal which took place between March and August 2020. You can read the full report and details here: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/carers-leave

What are the changes?

The response to the consultation sets out that the new statutory right to carers leave will be a day one right and so there is no requirement that an employee must have worked for their employer for a minimum amount of time to be eligible to take carer’s leave.

The purpose behind carer’s leave is that the employee is able to take time off to care for a dependant. A dependant will include:

  • A spouse, partner or civil partner
  • A child
  • A parent
  • A person who lives in the same household as the employee (otherwise than by reason of being their employee, tenant, lodger, or boarder)
  • A person who reasonably relies on the employee for care

In order to be eligible for carer’s leave, the person being cared for must have a long-term care need. For example, those individuals with physical or mental health conditions, disability or issues related to old age where the care needed is likely to last for a longer period of time (such as six months or a year).

There will also be categories of people who will automatically qualify without needing to show a long-term care need, for example those with a terminal illness.

What can carer’s leave be taken for?

An employee can take carer’s leave for any of the following forms of caring:

  • Providing personal support
  • Providing practical support
  • Helping with official or financial matters
  • Providing personal and/medical care
  • Making arrangements

Taking carer’s leave

In order to find a balance between providing flexibility to carers whilst reducing the impact on employers with staff being away from work, employees will be able to take carer’s leave in following two ways:

  1. As a single block of one whole working week.
  2. As individual days or half-days, up to one whole week.

There is also a requirement for employees to provide employers with double the length of notice of the leave required plus one day, when they would like to take unpaid carers leave. This means that an employee who wants to take 5 days leave will need to give their employer 11 days’ notice before the leave starts.

Employees will be able to self-certify their entitlement to carer’s leave and will not need to provide any form of evidence.

An employer can postpone the start date of the leave on the basis that it would unduly disrupt the operation of the business, but they will not be able to deny the request to take unpaid carers leave. 

Protection for employees taking carer’s leave

As with many other family-friendly legal rights, an employee must not be penalised or treated differently for taking up carer’s leave and so are protected from detriment. If a dismissal is related with an employee’s right to take carer’s leave, then the dismissal will be automatically unfair.

When will this be implemented?

The Government have set out that carer’s leave will be introduced when parliamentary time allows and so it may be implemented at the same time as other changes recently announced such as the flexible working request.

We will of course continue to bring you any updates as this is passed through law and details of the date for implementation.

If you have any questions in relation to this article or wish to discuss how this may impact your business, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Photo by Mikita Yo on Unsplash

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The information contained in this blog post is provided for guidance and is a snapshot of the law at the time it is written. It is provided for your information only and should not be used as a substitute for obtaining legal advice that it specific to your particular circumstances.

The guidance should not be relied upon in any decision making process. It is strongly recommended that you seek advice before taking action.


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