Carer’s Leave – a new right for employees

Written by Kevin Murphy
28 March, 2024
Carer's Leave a new right for employees

As part of the Government’s 2024 overhaul of employment law and HR they have not only introduced a new right to request predictable hours, extended the flexible working provisions but they have also introduced a new right for carers to take leave from work.

What is the new right to carers leave?

The Carer’s Leave Regulations 2024 are due to come into force from 6 April 2024 and will allow employees to take up to one week’s unpaid carers leave in any 12 month period.

The new right applies to employees who have a dependant who requires long-term care and those who want to take time off work to provide or arrange care for that dependant.  This is a day one right, so employees will be able to make an application on their first day of employment

The right to request is restricted to those with appropriate qualifying service, we are waiting for clarification on this but it is likely  to be 26 weeks of continuous service

How can an employee request carer’s leave?

In order to request carer’s leave an employee must notify in writing that they intend to take carer’s leave.  The key word here is intend, there is actually very little an employer will be able to do to prevent leave being taken (see below).  The notification must be in writing and include:

  • Must specify the days on which the leave is to be taken, and whether it applies to a full or half day; and
  • Must specify that they are entitled to take the leave in accordance with the relevant regulations.

Sufficient notice must be given of the intention to take leave, which will be the earliest of either:

  • twice as many day’s notice as the amount of days or part days to which the notice relates, or
  • three days in advance of the earliest day or part day specified in the notice.

Where an employee fails to give notice an employer can choose to waive the formal notification process and deem the notice to have been given.  In any event, if notice is given formally it may be that the employee is entitled to emergency time off work to care for the dependant under the Employment Right Act. 1996

How much time off can an employee have under the right to carer’s leave?

An employee can take up to a week off work in any 12 months.  The regulations effectively allow for a rolling 12 month period, in that they state that the 12 month restriction “ends on the last day of the carer’s leave the employee has requested”

The time off does not have to be consecutive but the least amount of time an employee can request in half a day.

Can I request employees to prove their right to carer’s leave?

Employees are able to self-certify their entitlement to carer’s leave and there is no supporting document, for example, the equivalent of a Fit Note for employees to access.

Is carer’s leave paid or unpaid?

Carer’s leave is 100% unpaid.  

Some employers may wish to consider paying staff for carers leave but there is no obligation at all.  Where an employer does consider paying we advise that clear rules are put in place to avoid the risk of treating people differently (possibly giving rise to a host of different claims) and that there is a clear policy stating whether the enhancement is a top-up to the statutory right, or additional paid time off in addition to the statutory right.

Can I deny a period of carer’s leave?

No, an employer cannot put a blanket ban on carer’s leave, they can postpone a request if the operation of the business would be unduly disrupted. If this is the case, the employer must give notice of the postponement before the leave was due to begin, and must explain why the postponement is necessary. 

The employer must then allow the leave to be taken within one month of the start-date of the leave originally requested. Rescheduling the leave should be done in consultation with the employee.

Do I dismiss someone for taking carer’s leave?

Providing the provisions above are met you have to allow carers leave an employee is entitled to carer’s leave, you cannot dismiss someone for relying upon a statutory right.  Furthermore, you cannot allow employees to suffer a detriment because they have either taken, or tried to take, carer’s leave.

Carer’s leave is due to be in force from 6 April 2024.  All employers should ensure that they are aware of the changes and are ready to implement the necessary policies and processes.  Employment Law Solutions offer employment Law advice and can assist with the implementation of carer’s leave.  By using a monthly retainer service you are able to benefit from HR advice for all of the HR headaches that you might face – 24/7, 365 days a year, all while spreading the cost over 12 monthly payments.

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