The government has confirmed its intention to introduce a new right for unpaid carers to take up to one week (five working days) of unpaid leave per year. This right was first announced in the Queen’s Speech back in December 2019.
The statutory right to carer’s leave will be introduced “when Parliamentary time allows”. Whilst we do not know when this will be, the response to the relevant consultation confirms that the leave will be brought in with “other measures which will also support unpaid carers”, including the right to request flexible working from the first day of employment. The consultation on the changes to flexible working closes on 1 December 2021 and so we can assume that the introduction of the new carer’s leave is still some way away.
What are the key points?
– Carer’s leave will be available to employees from day one;
— The leave may be taken to care for a spouse, partner, civil partner, child, parent, a person who lives in the same household or a person who reasonably relies on them for care;
— The individual being cared for must have a long-term care need. This will be defined as a long-term physical or mental illness or injury, a disability as defined under the Equality Act 2010, or issues relating to old age. We understand that there will be limited exemptions (for example, in the case of terminal illness).
— Employees will need to self-certify their eligibility but will not need to provide evidence.
What can the leave be used for?
— Carer’s leave may be used for providing care or making arrangements for the provision of care for a dependant who requires long-term care.
— This may include providing care for someone who reasonably depends on the employee for care while their primary unpaid carer is taking respite.
How will the right work in practice?
— Carer’s leave may be taken flexibly, in either individual days or half days, up to a block of one week.
— Employees will need to give notice which is twice the length of the leave, plus one day.
— Employers may not deny the request, but they may postpone it where they consider that the operation of the business will be unduly disrupted.
— Employees who take carer’s leave will be protected from suffering a detriment for having taken the leave, and any dismissals for reasons connected with exercising the right to take carer’s leave will be automatically unfair.
There is clearly a degree of similarity between the new right to “carer’s leave”, and the existing “time off for dependants”, although the existing right is intended to apply in an emergency, rather than pre-planned, situations. It will remain to be seen how much uptake the new form of leave will attract, given that it is unpaid.