Carers Leave – a new statutory right to a week’s unpaid leave for Carers from 6th April 2024
In England, Wales and Scotland, a new right for Employees will be introduced for those who have long-term caring responsibilities.
This is a Day 1 right (meaning Employees do not need a certain amount of service at an Employers to qualify). The Leave is intended to allow Employees to take time off to provide, or arrange care, for a dependant with long-term care needs.
Employees will have the right to Carers Leave every 12 months, and the right is to 1 week’s unpaid leave a year (even if the employee has more than 1 dependant they care for).
The week’s leave can be taken in a single block, or in half days or full days that are non-consecutive (a half day is the minimum leave that can be taken), over 12 months.
A ‘Dependant’ is the same as those described in ‘Time off for Dependants’ leave – e.g. a spouse, civil partner, child, parent, household member and any person who “reasonably relies on the employee for care”.
A long-term care need is described as a long-term illness or injury likely to require care for more than 3 months; or a disability (as defined by the Equality Act); or issues related to old age. The legislation does not expressly cover situations such as terminal illness likely to require care for less than 3 months – but Employers can choose to extend the right of Carers Leave in such or similar situations.
How to apply for Carers Leave:
Employees must give notice (not necessarily in writing) saying they are entitled to carers leave (they do not need to provide evidence of their entitlement) and give the dates they are requesting the leave. Employees need to give notice to take the leave:
- Twice as many days as the period of leave requested, or
- 3 days in advance,
- Whichever is the greater.
However, an Employer can choose to accept late notice if they wish.
Employers may want to prepare a ‘self-certificate’ of entitlement for staff to take the leave, if they wish.
Employers cannot deny an Employer the right to take Carers Leave, but they can postpone an employee’s request if they reasonably believe the operation of their business will be unduly disrupted. If an Employer postpones the leave, they must allow the employee to take the same length of leave they wanted, starting on a date ,within a month of the 1st date initially requested. The Employer, if postponing the leave, must give the employee written notice within 7 days of the original request that they are postponing the leave, explaining the reason for this and giving revised dates for the leave to be taken.
Employers can choose to enhance the right contractually if they wish (by offering more unpaid leave, or offering paid leave). But an employee cannot take both occupational and statutory Carers Leave separately, they can only take the right that is more favourable.
Employees will have the right not to be subject to detriment or dismissal because they take, or seek to take, or are likely to take, carers leave. Employees can bring an employment tribunal claim if an Employer unreasonably postpones or prevents, or attempts to prevent, the employee taking this leave. Dismissal of an employee for a reason connected with their taking carer’s leave will be automatically unfair.
During Carers Leave, the employee is entitled to benefit from all their normal terms and conditions (except pay) and has the right to return to work in their original job.
There will be Government Guidance published before 6th April 2024.
You can see details about Time Off for Dependants (a separate entitlement) here.