From 6 April 2024 a new leave entitlement will allow working carers to take one week of unpaid leave per year, regardless of their length of service. It will allow employees to provide or arrange care for a dependant with a long term care need.
According to the Census from 2021 there were 2.5 million unpaid carers in employment (excluding students) in England and Wales. Carers UK found that, on average, 600 people a day leave work due to caring responsibilities. Currently, there is no statutory leave entitlements for working carers. Employees who have caring responsibilities and need time off to care for others need to take annual leave or agree with the employer to take unpaid leave.
The leave is to help employees who are caring for dependants with a ‘long term care need’. This is a dependant who is likely to require care for three months or more, someone with a disability under the Equality Act 2010 or even someone with issues relating to old age.
Here are some pointers for employers on the new entitlement:
- Employees do not need to provide any evidence of their caring responsibilities to show that they are entitled to this leave;
- Employees can take half days or individual days up to the maximum of one week in a 12 month period. Employers should consider keeping records to track the number of days taken;
- Employees must give notice to the employer but there is no requirement for this to be in writing. The notice must inform the employer that the employee is entitled to carer’s leave and the days it will be taken;
- An employer cannot decline a request for carer’s leave but may postpone the leave in certain circumstances, for example, if it would be unduly disruptive to the business.
Employers should ensure policies and employee handbooks are updated so that managers and staff are aware of this entitlement. Of course, employers may wish to provide an increased entitlement and this should be included in the policy. It is vital for employers to make sure that policies operate consistently across the business to avoid any allegation of discrimination.
Get in touch if you need help updating policies to include this new entitlement – firstname.lastname@example.org