New Legislation: Carers’ Leave

15th November 2021 Employment

The Government has announced its intention, following consultation from March to August 2020, to introduce a new statutory entitlement to carer’s leave as a day 1 right for employees.

Reasons for new legislation

The Government launched the consultation due to a recognition that unpaid carers faced particular challenges in balancing work and caring responsibilities. They consulted on whether any changes could be made to help with those particular challenges. The Government has confirmed that it received over 800 responses to the consultation from a range of stakeholders and individuals.

In addition to the existing challenges faced by unpaid carers within the labour market, the Covid-19 pandemic brought about unprecedented changes to the lives of everyone in the UK. These changes emphasised and placed a greater spotlight on the existing challenges faced by many individuals and families that are balancing work with other responsibilities.

Operation of the new legislation

Employees will have the right to take carer’s leave 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 from ‘day one’ of their employment. The individual being cared for must have a long-term care need. This will be defined as a long-term illness or injury (physical or mental), a disability as defined under the Equality Act 2010, or issues related to old age. There are limited exemptions to the requirement for long-term care (for example, in the case of terminal illness).

Employees will be able to self-certify their entitlement to carer’s leave, which may be used for the provision of care or making arrangements for the provision of care for a dependant who meets the above criterion.

In addition, carer’s leave can be taken flexibly, either in individual days or half days, up to a block of one week. As with requests for annual leave, employees will be required to give notice that is twice the length of the time being requested, plus one day, ahead of taking carer’s leave. An employer may postpone a carer leave request on limited grounds, but it may not deny the request. The Employer may postpone the request on the grounds that it considers the operation of their business would be unduly disrupted by such leave. Employers will be required to give counter-notice if seeking to postpone the request for carer’s leave.

Those taking carer's leave will be protected from suffering a detriment, and dismissals for reasons connected with exercising the right to carer's leave will be automatically unfair.

Implementation of the new legislation

The Government has advised that it intends to introduce the right to carer’s leave as a day 1 statutory employment right when parliamentary time allows. Employers should consider the impending legislation and undertake necessary preparations in amending and/or updating their written policies in light of these upcoming changes.

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Laura Wharton is a Senior Associate located in Manchesterin our Employment department

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