The Background

On 24th May 2023, the Carer’s Leave Act 2023 became law, and in December 2023 the regulations which define how the act will work in practice and be applied by, and effective for employers went for before parliament for approval, and were subsequently approved. The Carer’s Leave Regulations 2024 therefore came into force for employers from 6th April 2024 (following a successful campaign led by charity, Carers UK) and became a statutory unpaid leave allowance that employees are entitled to request to take.

What is Carer’s Leave and who is eligible?

Carer's Leave

The right to request Carer’s Leave is a day one employment right for anyone defined as being an ‘employee’ in a business, which means from the first day of working for an employer an employee can make a request for up to a week of unpaid Carer’s Leave to give or arrange care for a dependent who needs long-term care for an illness or injury.

The Carer’s Leave can be taken as a whole week, individual full days or half days, but no less than half a day at a time, and the time off should be equal to an individual employee’s usual working week.  This means if someone works part-time and say 2 or 3 days per week, they are entitled to 2 or 3 days of Carer’s Leave.

Who are dependants?

A dependant is defined as:

  • a spouse, civil partner, child, parent, a person who lives in the same household as the employee (other than by reason of them being their employee, tenant, lodger or boarder), or
  • the wider catch-all provision, of a person who reasonably relies on the employee for care.

This definition of a dependant mirrors the definition given for a dependent under the right to ‘Time off for Dependants Leave’.

Carer's Leave

Does This Replace Time Off For Dependants Leave?

The introduction of Carer’s Leave does not however replace ‘Time off for Dependant’s Leave’, there is a key difference between the two types of leave.  Also known as Emergency Leave, Time Off For Dependants Leave is meant to be for any dependants (as long as they meet the definition of a dependant) and is where perhaps something goes wrong and a care arrangement breaks down, such as a child’s nursery school shuts for the day because of poor weather, or the carer doesn’t turn up and is sick, and so a parent is left without a carer for the day, and you need to unexpectedly take time out to deal with that and make other arrangements for their care, not necessarily to provide the care.  Time off for Dependants Leave is only meant to be a day or two a year, doesn’t require a notice period to take it and is also unpaid, although some employers chose to pay for it.

Whereas, Carer’s Leave is intended for dependants with a long-term care need, and this is the key.  A long-term care need is defined as:

  • a physical or mental illness or injury that means they’re expected to need care for more than 3 months
  • a disability (as defined in the Equality Act 2010)
  • care needs because of their old age

Carer’s Leave can be booked in advance and can be used to provide care rather than just making rearrangements.  If an employee is caring for more than one dependant they can only take one week of Carer’s Leave in a 12 month period, but they can split the week of leave up to care for different dependants.

Notice Required to Take Carer’s Leave

An employee wishing to take Carer’s Leave is required to give minimum periods of notice:

  • For a request of two or more days, twice as much notice must be given, so four days’ notice must be given for two days leave,
  • For requests of a half day or one day the notice period required is at least three days.

Notice would be preferred in writing but is not required to be given in writing, and an employee does not have to justify or give evidence of their dependant’s care needs.

Carer's leave

Can An Employer Refuse a Request For Carer’s Leave?

Carer's Leave

An employer cannot refuse a request for Carer’s Leave but they can ask an employee if they could take it at a different time if the absence requested would cause significant disruption to the organisation’s operations.

When an employer asks to delay the leave they are required to agree another date for the Carer’s Leave to start within one month of the original start date requested, and they are required to put the reason for the delay and new date in writing to the employee within 7 days of the original request, and before the start date of the Carer’s Leave.

I Am An Employer, What Should I Be Doing Now?

  1. You will need a new Carer’s Leave Policy to add to your policy suite or handbook to reflect the legislative changes.
  2. Once created you will need to publish your Carer’s Leave Policy, Procedure and associated forms so employees are aware of the changes and their statutory rights.
  3. Brief line managers and/or anyone that considers leave requests for employees about the changes and make sure they understand the new legislation so there is no complaints or problems considering requests appropriately.

If you need any help with creating your Carer’s Leave Policy, then get in touch, Metro HR would be happy to help.

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