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Who is eligible for carer’s leave?

Carer’s leave will be available to employees only (ie workers and consultants will not be eligible). It will only be available to those who have to provide or arrange for the long-term care of a dependant

Who is considered a dependant?

For the purposes of carer’s leave, the relationship of ‘dependant’ is the same as for the right to take time off for dependants. Such dependants include:

  • spouses and civil partners

  • children (including adopted and step-children)

  • parents

  • anyone who lives in the same household as the employee (other than by reason of them being their employee, tenant, lodger or boarder), and

  • anyone who reasonably relies on the employee for care (eg  grandparents,  siblings, or even neighbours, if they depend on the employee for care)

Which kinds of care is the right applicable to?

To be eligible, the person being cared for by the employee taking (or requesting to take) carer’s leave must have a long-term care need. This is either: 

  • a physical or mental illness or injury that requires or is likely to require care for more than 3 months

  • a disability as defined by the Equality Act 2010, or

  • issues related to old age

Exceptions to this requirement for a long-term care need are expected to be introduced in further legislation, including where the employee is looking after someone with a terminal illness.

The types of care that can be provided are broad. They include the employee:

  • providing care themselves 

  • making arrangements for their dependant to be cared for by someone else, and

  • providing practical support (eg helping their dependant with financial or other official matters)

When do employees gain the right to carer’s leave?

Employees will have the right to take carer’s leave from their first day of employment. In other words, employees who meet the eligibility criteria set out above won’t need to have worked for their employer for a minimum period before they become entitled to and can take carer’s leave.

Employees will also be protected from being penalised for taking (or requesting to take) carer’s leave. Further, if an employee is dismissed because they have taken (or have asked to take) carer’s leave, their dismissal may be automatically unfair. If an Employment Tribunal finds a dismissal to be automatically unfair, then the employer may also have to reinstate the employee (ie give them their job back) or re-engage the employee (ie re-employ them in a different job) and pay compensation.

How much carer’s leave can be taken?

This is expected to be set out in subsequent legislation. However, it is expected that eligible employees will be able to take up to one week of unpaid leave per year.  Carer’s leave can either be taken in one block of one week or as individual days or half days.

How can carer’s leave be taken?

This will be detailed in subsequent legislation. However, it is expected that carer’s leave can be taken by the employee giving notice to their employer in advance. Employees will likely need to give twice the length of notice as the length of time they want to take off, plus one day. For example, if an employee wanted to take 2 days of carer’s leave, they would have to give at least 5 days’ notice to their employer.

Employers will likely not be able to turn down requests to take carer’s leave but may be able to postpone employees taking carer’s leave if they believe that the operation of the business would be unduly disrupted by the employee taking leave at a requested time.

Employees will likely not have to provide evidence to prove that they need to take leave to care for someone. Instead, they will be able to self-certify that they qualify for carer’s leave.

Employers will likely be able to take disciplinary action against anyone who makes a false application or misleads them in some other way regarding their right to carer’s leave.

How does carer’s leave interact with other types of leave?

Carer’s leave is intended to bolster the leave entitlements that already exist in the UK. Specifically, carer’s leave is designed to assist employees with long-term caring responsibilities. There are various types of leave already in place (eg time off for dependants, unpaid parental leave or even annual leave) that should instead be used for short-term care needs.

For more information on the different types of leave, read Family leave and rights.

Practical implications of carer’s leave for employers

Employers will have to wait until subsequent legislation is passed to provide more information and certainty about how the right will work in practice. While there is not yet a set date for when carer’s leave will come into effect, employers should, in due course, consider:

  • making or updating existing policies to inform employees about their right to take carer’s leave and how this will work

  • making a carer’s leave self-certification form for employees to complete when they are requesting carer’s leave

  • ensuring adequate record-keeping is in place to track how many days of carer’s leave employees have taken

  • offering additional support to employees (eg allowing them to work more flexibility, such as from home or at different times)

  • ensuring managers are aware of the right to take carer’s leave, highlighting the potentially sensitive nature of this type of leave and clarifying that dismissal connected to carer’s leave may be automatically unfair

Employers should also consider whether they want to offer enhanced rights (eg offering paid carer’s leave rather than unpaid carer’s leave).

To find out more, see the government’s consultation outcome on carer’s leave. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to Ask a lawyer.

If you wish to adopt a bespoke policy addressing carer’s leave, consider using our Bespoke drafting service.

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