Carers Leave Act: millions of carers in the UK about to get extra support
On 24 May 2023, the Carers Leave Act 2023 received Royal Assent. What this means is that, once commenced – a date which is to be announced – an employee with caring responsibilities will be entitled to a week’s (unpaid) leave during any 12-month period to care for their dependant(s).
This is a much-celebrated act, that clearly has great societal benefit, specifically to those feeling the strain of caring for loved ones who are struggling with long term health issues.
The Act aims to support carers to remain in work, thereby supporting staff retention and recruitment, as well as the health and wellbeing of employees with caring responsibilities.
- The new law in 2023 gives carers a right to a week of flexible unpaid leave a year to care for a dependant with a long-term care need. This can be taken as a block of 5 days, individual days, or half-days.
- Currently, unpaid carers who are in employment must rely on other types of leave to meet their caring responsibilities, such as parental leave if they are caring for a child, or annual leave.
The new Act encourages enmployers to embrace unpaid leave requests from carers in the workplace and for employers to consider creating and adopting a sympathetic "Carers Leave" policy in their employee handbooks. This is something new to employers and employees.
The leave can be used for caring for a spouse, civil partner, child, parent, someone living in the same household or a person who reasonably relies on the employee for care.
Gives Unpaid Leave rights to at least 2 million employees who are carers
Prompts employers to whom this applied to think about their employees with caring responsibilities, and for many, create carer-related policies for the first time
Encourages more forward-looking employers to go further than the legislation required and introduce Paid Carer’s Leave, to help them stay ahead with recruitment, offering this as an attractive employee benefit
Support carers' health and wellbeing. Research shows that having a supportive employer and the ability to take time off work to provide care (Carer’s Leave) can help to mitigate the pressures carers face
Recognise and value of carers in society and to support them.
However, there are things to be aware of.
The Carers Leave Act defines who qualifies as a ‘dependant’. The Act states that a ‘dependant’:
Is a spouse, civil partner, child, or parent of the employee;
Lives in the same household as the employee (not in the capacity of the employee’s boarder, employee, lodger, or tenant); or
Reasonably relies on the employee to provide or arrange care.
Additionally, the Act sets out what is a ‘long-term care need’:
They have an illness or injury (whether physical or mental) that requires, or is likely to require, care for more than three months;
They have a disability for the purposes of the Equality Act 2010; or
They require care for a reason connected with their old age.
As the Act makes its way into UK legislation, it will be interesting to see how the Tribunal approach any potential disputes that arise. For instance, the third leg of the definition of ‘dependant’ is fairly wide, and so it will be intriguing to see how this is interpreted.
What do I need to do?
Employers will need to make sure that they are aware of their new obligations, and the processes they must follow. The Act makes it clear that an employee will be able to lodge a complaint with the Employment Tribunal should the employer unreasonably postpones a period of carer’s leave, or, prevents or attempts to prevent the employee from taking carer’s leave.
Additionally, employers will likely need to review their staff handbook and/or relevant stand-alone policies to deal with this new legal right. They will also need to ensure that their employment contracts adequately cover the subject.
How the information travels throughout the public will decide how aware employees are of this new right, whilst the more diligent will note it in their prudent review of the T&Cs within their contract.
However, employees will also need to be aware of how they must trigger this right, and their obligations to their employers.
Lawson West is here to help!
Whether you’re an employer, worried about making sure your documents are compliant with the new employee right, or concerned about how you will be able to manage the workforce; or an employee looking to utilise the right to care for a loved one, we are here to help. Contact Us.
Why not get in touch for a brief discussion on what you’ll need to do to be ready for the much-awaited commencement date of the Carers Leave Act?View all