The UK Government consulted, between March and August 2020, on the concept of introducing unpaid Carer’s Leave for employees. The consultation closed and the Government responded in September 2021. The Government response confirmed that one week’s (5 working days) unpaid carer’s leave for employees will be introduced “as soon as parliamentary time allows”, which possibly means some time later in 2022.
What will be the main points of the new statutory right to Carer’s Leave?
- It will only be available to employees (and not workers) who have a relationship with the person they caring for.
- The person they are caring for must be a ‘dependant’ (the same definition used for the Right to take Time Off for Dependants) – i.e. includes a spouse, civil partner, child, parent, a person who lives in the same household as the employee, or a person who reasonably relies on the employee for care (e.g. grandparents, siblings etc).
- To be eligible to take the Carer’s Leave the person they are caring for must have long-term care needs – so be someone who has a long-term physical or mental illness or injury, a disability (under the Equality Act 2010) or someone who has ‘issues relating to old age’.
- The right to Carer’s Leave will be available from Day 1 of an employees employment (i.e. they will not need to have worked at the employers for a minimum period of time before they are entitled to take the leave).
- Employees will be protected from detriment or dismissal if they take this leave or ask to take it or have taken it (the dismissal would be automatically unfair, regardless of length of service).
- The type of care being given to qualify for this leave can be – the employee caring themselves for the ‘dependant’, or making arrangements for their dependant to be cared for by someone else, and also giving practical support to the dependant on financial or other matters.
- The leave can be taken in one block or split into half days or whole days across the year. Each employee is entitled to 1 week’s Carer’s Leave per year.
- Employees must give notice to take the leave – of twice the time they need to take off plus one day. E.g. if an employee wants to take one days carer’s leave they would need to ask for it at least two day’s before.
- Employers cannot turn down requests for carer’s leave, but they can ask the employee to postpone the leave if they think the business would be disrupted because of the leave (but the employee must be able to take the leave at another date).
- Employees will not have to provide their employer with any evidence to prove that they need to take the leave, but they will need to self-certify that they qualify for the leave (Employers can discipline anyone who makes a false application or misleads them about taking this leave. Employers could also introduce a requirement for evidence to be provided by the employee, but this may cause compliance issues with data protection laws).
- Employers can of course offer paid Carer’s Leave, or additional unpaid Carer’s Leave, if they wish!
- Employment Contracts will need to be amended when this becomes law, and you may want to write a Carer’s Leave policy for your Handbook.
We will update this when there is a date for this to become law!
The government have said that approximately five million people in the UK provide unpaid support to an elderly or disabled relative or friend, and half of those people are also in paid work.