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Employees will be entitled to unpaid leave to care for dependents from April

View profile for Philip Richardson
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From April employees will be entitled to unpaid leave to care for dependents

On 6th April 2024 the Carer's Leave Act will come into force, giving employees with care responsibilities the right to unpaid leave whilst remaining in employment.

According to the charity Carers UK, there are 5.7 million people in the UK who undertake unpaid care roles on top of their day job or who have had to give up work in order to care for a dependent. The time carers give to this role often means they are juggling care with their work and family life and in turn compromising their own health and wellbeing. The new Act aims to help alleviate some of the time and financial pressures that carers face, allowing them to remain in employment while also fulfilling their care responsibilities.

Employees will be entitled to unpaid leave to give or arrange care for a dependent who has:

  • a disability as defined by the Equality Act 2010
  • a physical or mental illness or injury which means they are expected to require care for more than three months
  • requires care due to old age.

Dependents do not have to be related to the employee; they can be anyone who relies on the employee for care. The act does not pertain to caring for employees’ children. Parents are eligible to take up to 18 weeks of leave to look after their children – this is unpaid parental leave and is separate to carer’s leave.

Under the new law carers will be entitled to one week of leave every twelve months to carry out care for a dependent. A week is classed as however many days they usually work per week, for example if the employee works three days a week they are entitled to three days of carer's leave per year. The week can be taken in one block or individual days or half days over the twelve month period. If they care for more than one person the allowance of one week remains the same but can be split across a number of dependents.

Employees will be required to give their employer notice that they intend to take carer's leave, unless in an emergency situation. The amount of notice they are expected to give is three days for single or half days, and for any longer periods of leave they are expected to give double the amount of time they would like to take. For example, if the request is for two days, they should give four days’ notice. Requests do not need to be in writing, and they are not required to prove the care needs of their dependents.

Under the new law employers are not permitted deny requests for carer's leave. They can however ask the employee to take it at a different time if their absence will significantly disrupt the business or organisation. If they do ask the employer to delay the leave they must agree another date within one month of the date originally requested and give the reason for the request to delay in writing to the employee within seven days of the request being made and before the requested start date of the leave.

How will the new law benefit carers?

More support - Carer's leave provides flexibility for employees who find themselves in the position of caregiver. It acknowledges the importance of caregiving responsibilities and ensures that individuals can fulfil these duties without sacrificing their employment. The new law will hopefully give carers in employment peace of mind that they can take some time to care for their dependents without refusal or dispute with their employer.

Maintaining work - life balance: Balancing work with caregiving responsibilities can be incredibly challenging. Carer's leave helps employees maintain a healthier work-life balance by allowing them to take time off when necessary to attend to the needs of their dependents.

Reduced stress: Juggling caregiving responsibilities with work and potentially other responsibilities such as childcare can lead to high levels of stress and exhaustion. The Carer’s Leave Act will aim to alleviate some of this pressure, enabling caregivers to take time out of work to fulfil their care responsibilities, ultimately leading to happier, more productive employees.

Our specialist employment law team provide businesses with a full range of employment law and HR support services including reviewing and drafting policies and procedures, providing training and offering fully outsourced HR support through our fixed price HR packages. We can help you to ensure your business is up to date and compliant with current laws. Call us on 0161 696 6170.