Following a consultation that took place last year, the Government has announced that they will be introducing an entitlement to one week’s unpaid leave for carers. This is in recognition of approximately five million people in the UK providing unpaid support to an elderly or disabled relative or friend, whilst juggling other responsibilities including paid employment.
Who is Eligible for Carer’s Leave?
All employees will be entitled to carer’s leave irrespective of how long they have worked for their employer, provided that they are providing care for either a dependant (i.e. a spouse, civil partner, child, parent or someone that lives in the same household) or for a person who reasonably relies on them for care and suffers from a long-term illness or injury, a disability or issues related to old age.
What Could the Leave be used for?
The Government’s response to the consultation provides examples of when it may be suitable to use the new carer’s leave, such as providing personal support to those with long-term support needs, helping with official or financial matters or accompanying someone to medical or other such appointments.
When the Leave Can be Taken.
Employees who meet the criteria as detailed above are entitled to one week of carer’s leave per year and the entitlement can be taken in either a single block of one week or more flexibly in individual days.
However, this is subject to the employee providing the employer with notice ahead of taking the carer’s leave, which will be broadly the same notice required to take a period of statutory holiday – the notice being twice the length of the time requested as leave, plus one day.
The employer has the ability to postpone the leave request for carer’s leave but not the ability to cancel it and the grounds on which they can postpone the leave request will be strictly limited to where the employer considers the business would be unduly disrupted.
Will the Employee be required to provide any Evidence?
The response to the consultation from the Government suggests that employees will only need to self-certify their entitlement to carer’s leave and will not be required to provide any additional information regarding their caring duties, due to the reluctance for sensitive, personal or medical information needing to be disclosed.
Consideration for Employers
In light of the new workplace right, employers will need to plan for how the carer’s leave might be incorporated into their HR systems and communicated with staff. For example, employers could consider creating a “self-certification” form for employees to complete to apply for carer’s leave, inform the workforce of their new legal right, update or create policies to incorporate carer’s leave and introducing a system of record-keeping to track the number of days of carer’s leave taken per employee.
The Government has stated in its response to the consultation that legislation to introduce carer’s leave as an employment right will be brought forward when parliamentary time allows and there has been no indication as to when this may be as of yet.
This news will be a welcome relief for many employees in the workforce who are struggling to balance their personal caring responsibilities with their employment responsibilities but the question remains whether this will be enough to lighten their burden. The Government however appear to believe that this is a suitable middle ground between the needs of the employee and that of the employer.
For more information, please contact a member of our Employment Team.