New rights for carers established from April 2024

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New rights for carers established from April 2024

From 6 April 2024, employees will have a statutory right to a week’s unpaid leave to care for a dependant.

The Carer’s Leave Act 2023 came into force on 24 May 2023. Recently, the Carer’s Leave Regulations 2024 (Carer’s Leave Regulations), were laid before Parliament and look to set out how the carer leave entitlement will work.

Carer’s leave can only be used by those employees who are eligible. An employee is eligible to take carer’s leave if they have a dependant with a ‘long-term care need’ (see below) in which they need to provide or arrange care for that dependant. A dependant can include a spouse, civil partner, child, parent, or a person who reasonably relies on the employee for care.

There will be no minimum service requirement for an employee to exercise their right to take carer’s leave and employees can request carer’s leave from the first day of their employment. Companies should not penalise an employee who requests carer’s leave (once it comes into force) and any dismissal of an employee for exercising their right (if eligible) to carer’s leave could be automatically unfair.

What is a long-term care need?

The dependant who requires care must have a long-term care need. A long-term care need is an illness or injury (physical or mental) that requires care for more than three months, is a disability under the Equality Act 2010, or is in relation to issues relating to old age.  

What is the extent of entitlement of carer’s leave?

An employee who can satisfy the eligibility requirements of the right to carer’s leave will have a right to apply for carer’s leave for up to one continuous week (unpaid) in any 12-month period. The minimum period of carer’s leave an employee may take is half a working day and the leave does not need to be in consecutive days, so employees could take seven separate days of carer leave over the course of a 12-month period.

The Carer’s Leave Regulations do not specify if the one week carer’s leave entitlement is for one dependant, or  what the entitlement is for an employee with multiple dependants and therefore Companies will have to consider internally how it wishes to approach this with its workforce.

How can an eligible employee request carer leave?

Eligible employees must give their employer notice of their intention to take carer’s leave (there is no requirement for this to be in writing), confirm their entitlement to take carer’s leave and to give at least twice as much notice than the requested period of carer’s leave or three days’ notice (whichever is earliest).

How should a Company respond to an employee’s request for Carer’s leave?

A Company are not able to deny an employee’s request for carer’s leave but they are able to postpone a request for carer’s leave where there is reasonable belief that the operation of the business will be unduly disrupted.

If a Company is looking to postpone an employee’s  request for carer’s leave , legal advice should be obtained in order to ensure the correct legal procedure is followed. 

Action points for Companies?

1) A review of any staff handbook should be undertaken to :-

a. reflect the carers leave changes;

b. inform  employees of their right to request carer’s leave; and

c. Inform employees of  how they can request carer’s leave.

2) Consider if the Company can / should implement an internal system to streamline carer leave applications, ensure they meet the legal definition of a carer and that they are using the carer’s leave for the right purposes (and not short-term care needs which could be resolved by other types of leave).

3) Management and/or Human Resources should be trained to understand the new carer’s leave entitlement, with consideration given to how the Company can ensure employees are not taking more than the maximum amount of carer leave that is afforded to them under the new Carer Leave Regulations.

Companies should consider whether they wish to offer the basic carer’s leave entitlement or an enhanced entitlement.

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