New entitlement to carer’s leave when parliamentary time allows
Carrying out caring responsibilities together with working can be challenging and also limit the participation of unpaid carers in the labour market. Women are often the primary carers within families and, therefore, can be disproportionately impacted. The government responded to this challenge as part of the Carer’s Action Plan 2018 to 2020 to consider dedicated employment rights for carers, alongside existing employment rights. The 2019 government manifesto further committed to introducing a week of leave to unpaid carers.
Following the government’s consultation on carer’s leave, which ran from March to August 2020, the government published a report in September 2021. The main areas covered in the report are detailed below.
Following evaluation of the responses from the consultation, the new statutory carer’s unpaid leave will:
- Be available to the employee from day one.
- Rely on the carer’s relationship with the person being cared for, which should broadly follow the definition of dependant used in the right to time off for dependants.
- Depend on the person being cared for having a long-term care need. This would be defined as a long-term illness or injury (physical or mental), a disability as defined under the Equality Act 2010, or issues related to old age.
How can the leave be taken?
The government considered the responses from the consultation. It has concluded that a flexible option of taking either individual days or half days, up to a block of one week, would be more beneficial in meeting the needs of unpaid carers.
There were mixed responses as to whether employees should be required to give notice before taking carer’s leave. Based on the responses, the entitlement will require employees to give notice in line with that of taking annual leave. Therefore, an employee must give notice that is twice the length of time being requested as leave, plus one day.
Employers will be able to postpone, but not deny, the request for carer’s leave. However, the grounds on which they can do so will be strictly limited to where the employer considers that the operation of their business would be unduly disrupted.
The new right will allow employees to self-certify their entitlement to carer’s leave. However, a false application can be dealt with in the same way as a false claim for sickness absence, that is through the disciplinary process.
Employees taking carer’s leave will be protected from detriment: dismissals for reasons connected with exercising the right to carer’s leave will be automatically unfair dismissal.
Implementation of carer’s leave
The government has stated that legislation to introduce carer’s leave will be brought forward when parliamentary time allows, along with other measures, which will support unpaid carers. These measures include making it easier for people to work flexibly by making it the default unless employers have good reason not to. We covered the flexible working consultation here.
The full government consultation outcome on carer’s leave can be found here.
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