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What does the new unpaid carer's leave mean for employers?

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The Carer’s Leave Regulations 2024 (the Regulations) were made in February 2024 following the Carer’s Leave Act 2023 receiving Royal Assent in May 2023. These Regulations entitle employees to take leave for the purpose of providing or arranging care for a dependant with a long-term need. The Regulations are due to come into force from 6th April 2024.

According to a 2023 survey by Carers UK, out of the 10,751 employees surveyed, as many as 40% of employees with unpaid caring duties are quitting their jobs, and 22% are reducing their hours in order to manage their high levels of care. Many of the surveyed employees stated their caring duties can be as much as 50 hours each week and quitting or reducing their hours was due to the stress of juggling both work and care.

In this article, we will look into the new Regulations and what they mean for both employees and employers.

The Carer’s Leave Act 2023 defines a dependant as a person who:

  • Is a spouse, civil partner, child or parent of the employee;
  • Lives in the same household as the employee, but who is not their tenant, lodger, boarder or employee; or
  • Reasonably relies of the employee to provide or arrange care.

A dependant with a long-term care need is defined as a person who:

  • Has an illness or injury (whether physical or mental) that requires, or is likely to require, care for more than three months;
  • Has a disability for the purposes of the Equality Act 2010; or
  • Requires care for a reason connected with their old age.

Statutory unpaid time off

Under the Regulations, employees are entitled to take up to one week’s unpaid leave in any rolling 12-month period. Although this leave is unpaid, employers have the option to offer full pay for this at their discretion. Carer’s leave may be taken in either individual days or half days up to a block of one week.

To take carer’s leave, employees are required to give notice of either twice as many days as the period of leave requested, or three days’ notice, whichever is greater. In addition, notice for carer’s leave does not need to be given in writing and employers cannot require evidence in relation to the request before granting the leave.

If an employee is required to care for more than one dependant, they are not entitled to a full week’s leave for each dependant. They are only entitled to the one week every 12 months and must use this time reasonably to care for multiple dependants. If a dependant is under the age of 18, employees may be entitled to request parental leave.

During a period of carer's leave, an employee is entitled to the benefit of all their terms and conditions in their employment contract, apart from the right to remuneration, and will remain subject to all their usual obligations regarding good faith and confidentiality, and any contractual restrictions.

Additionally, as with other types of statutory leave, employees who have taken or intend to take carer’s leave will be protected from any detriment and/or dismissal that may be attributable to the fact that they have taken or intend to take this leave.

Postponement of carer’s leave

Under the Regulations, employers can not outright decline a request for carer’s leave in any circumstances; however, they may postpone the leave where all of the following apply:

  • The employer reasonably considers that the operation of the business would be unduly disrupted if they allowed the leave during the requested period;
  • The employer allows the employee to take a period of carer’s leave of the same duration, within a month of the period initially requested; and
  • The employer gives the employee a written notice within seven days of the initial request, setting out the reason for the postponement and the agreed dates on which the leave can be taken.

If you have any questions about carer’s leave, our Peace of Mind Team can provide specific advice and our Document Audit Team can help draft a carer’s leave policy for your business. Contact our employment law team by emailing employment@warnergoodman.co.uk or by calling 023 8071 7717.