17 January 2024
From 6 April 2024 carers will have a day one right to request one week’s unpaid carer’s leave per year. Draft regulations for the Carer’s Leave Act 2023 provide the detail on this new right.
Who will this apply to?
Carer’s leave will apply to employees in England and Wales and Scotland. Employees who want to take leave under the new act will need to have a dependant with a long-term care need. The employee will want to take leave to provide or arrange care for that dependant. Dependant is not defined in the act, but we would expect it to follow the usual definition with a dependant being a spouse or civil partner, child, parent, someone who lives with the employee or some other person who relies on the employee if they become ill (for example a grandchild).
This is a ‘day one’ right meaning that there is no minimum service needed before employees can take advantage of this new right.
How much leave?
Employees will be able to take up to a week’s unpaid leave per year, to be taken in half or whole days. Employee’s do not have to take the leave on consecutive days and will be entitled to take a whole week in one block if they choose to do so. The amount of leave will always be one week per year regardless of how many dependants the employee has.
How much notice?
Employees will have to give their employer notice that they intend on taking this leave. The period of notice an employee has to give will be twice the length of the period of leave they want to take or three days, whichever is the longest. There is no requirement in the draft regulations that the notice is given in writing, and employers can chose to waive the requirement for notice if the employee is otherwise eligible to take Carer’s leave.
Do employees have to provide evidence of their entitlement to this right?
No employers cannot ask, and employees do not need to provide, evidence that they are caring for a dependant.
Are carers protected?
Yes, employees who are also carer’s who exercise their right to take this leave will be protected from dismissal or detriment.
Does the employer have to agree?
The employer can not refuse the request from the employee, but they are able to postpone it if it would disrupt the operation of the business. The employee must be allowed to take the requested Carer’s leave within one month of the original request. If the employer wants to postpone the Carer’s leave, then they need to write to the employee within 7 days of the original request explaining why it has to be postponed and provide revised dates for the leave. In practise this may be difficult especially if there is a gap in the usual care provision and the leave is being taken for this reason. Employers will need to appreciate that these requests from employees will come at times when they do not have any other choice and employers will need to be sensitive to their employees’ circumstances.
How should employers prepare for the new right?
Employers should consider implementing a new Carer’s leave policy to inform employees of the procedure in requesting this leave. As part of that new policy employers should consider having a declaration form for employees to declare that they are a carer, will be providing care to a dependant, and are entitled to Carers leave. Managers will have to be trained on this new right and the tricky issues that surround it. Employers will need to be sensitive to the employees right for privacy surrounding their private life and the process for requesting the leave.
Employers may want to considering offering paid carer’s leave instead of unpaid carer’s leave. Whilst the statutory scheme is the minimum that employers have to offer, it will help to retain and attract staff as part of a family friendly offering.
If you have any questions about this article or would like us to provide you with a Carers leave policy please contact a member of our employment team.
Jacqueline Kendal: Barrister and Head of Employment
Gill Brown: Legal Director
Sarah Filsell: Associate
Please call us or email and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible.
- 01256 460830
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