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

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Following a consultation it conducted last year, the Government has indicated its intention to introduce a new form of unpaid leave for employees with caring responsibilities. Our Employment Law team today outlines who will qualify for this new form of leave, when it can be taken, and the reasons for the change.

Eligibility for the unpaid carer’s leave

The Government proposes giving employees who are unpaid carers’ the right to five days’ unpaid leave to carry out their caring responsibilities. This right will apply from day one of employment and will only apply to employees.

To be eligible for this form of leave, the employee must have a qualifying relationship with the person receiving the care. A qualifying relationship is similar to the definition of “dependant” for the purposes of emergency time off for dependants. The person receiving the care must be:

  • a close family member;
  • a member of the same household, but not an employee, tenant, lodger, or boarder; or
  • someone who reasonably relies on the employee for care.

The person receiving care must also have a long-term care need, such as a long-term illness, a disability as defined by the Equality Act 2010, or issues relating to old age. The proposal also states there would be limited exceptions to the long-term care requirement such as where the person needing care has a terminal illness.

What type of care qualifies?

The Government’s proposal acknowledges the need for flexibility, as each employee’s circumstances are different. It will therefore allow leave to be taken for a wide range of reasons including:

  • Providing direct care to the individual;
  • Making arrangements for the individual to be cared for by someone else;
  • Providing care while the primary caregiver is taking respite;
  • Assisting with financial or other official matters; and
  • Accompanying the individual to an appointment.  

Childcare will not qualify for unpaid carers’ leave as it is already covered by other forms of leave such as emergency time off for dependants and unpaid parental leave.

Taking leave under unpaid carer’s leave initiative

Employees can take the leave as a whole block or as individual days or half days. Employees will be required to give notice that is twice the length of the leave to be taken plus one day. Employers will not be allowed to refuse a request, but may be able to delay it in exceptional circumstances.

Employees will be able to self-certify their right to carers’ leave. The Government has indicated that it will not require any additional evidence of employees’ right to carers’ leave, and any fraudulent claims for carers’ leave should be dealt with according to the employer’s normal disciplinary process.

The Government will also provide protections for employees who exercise their right to take carers’ leave. It proposes that dismissals for reasons connected to taking unpaid carers’ leave will be automatically unfair.

Why is this leave being introduced?

It is challenging for people who are carers to balance their caring responsibilities with paid employment, and this struggle was likely made more difficult by the pandemic. Unfortunately, many employees do not have a suitable option available to them when they need to take time off from work to perform caring duties. The consultation found that 66% of carers who are also in paid employment used some of their holiday entitlement to take time off work to provide care. It is hoped that this new leave will make things easier for carers and encourage their participation in the labour market.

We do not yet know when this new leave will be passed into law. The Government has said it will introduce legislation when “parliamentary time allows.” We will continue to provide updates as they become available. If you have any questions about your employees’ current rights to paid and unpaid leave, contact our Employment Law Team today on 023 8071 7717 or email

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This is for information purposes only and is no substitute for, and should not be interpreted as, legal advice.  All content was correct at the time of publishing and we cannot be held responsible for any changes that may invalidate this article.