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| 4 minutes read

Employee wellbeing – Carer’s leave

This article is the fifth in our Employee wellbeing series. Further details are below.

Employers will be well versed in supporting employees to take leave from work for sickness, holidays or to welcome a new child into the family either via birth or adoption. Earlier articles in this series have also discussed leave from work for employees facing fertility challenges or for those affected by the menopause. To read these articles, please see the links at the end of this article.

This fifth article will consider the new statutory right an employee has to carer’s leave. We discuss whether this new entitlement goes far enough or, if there is more an employer can do to support employees with caring responsibilities.

According to the charity Carers UK, before the COVID-19 pandemic almost 5 million people (15% of the UK population) balanced unpaid caring responsibilities alongside their employment. In 2020, this increased to 7 million individuals. Providing care and maintaining full time employment is stressful and challenging, understandably impacting upon an employee’s own well-being. This can lead to burn out and many are leaving their jobs entirely due to the strain of being unsupported and unable to sustainably manage both responsibilities. With an ageing population, this juggling act is only going to grow in prevalence and employers need to have appropriate support systems in place to maintain a healthy workforce.

The Carer’s Leave Act 2023, and the more recently passed Carer’s Leave Regulations 2024, introduce a statutory entitlement of up to 5 days of unpaid leave per year for all employees for the purpose of caring for a dependant with a long-term care need.

This right to take carer’s leave will come into force next week, on 6 April 2024. In anticipation, we discuss what this right entails and what can be done by employers to support carers within their workforce.

Who is eligible?

A very broad approach has been taken, with carer’s leave available to all employees from the first day of their employment. Leave must be for the purpose of providing or arranging care for a dependent with a long-term care need.

A ‘dependent’ has a wide meaning in this context, encompassing an employee’s spouse, civil partner, child or parent, someone who lives in the same household as the employee or simply someone who reasonably relies on the employee to provide or arrange care.

A ‘long-term care need’ is equally expansive, including:

  • an illness or injury (physical or mental) that requires (or is likely to require) care for more than 3 months;
  • a disability as defined under the Equality Act 2010; or
  • any care required for a reason connected with old age.

Taking carer's leave

The leave may be taken flexibly, either as half or full working days, on consecutive days up to a block of one week, or broken up across the calendar year as may be required. A working day is a day upon which the employee would usually be expected to work.

An employee will be required to give three days’ notice or a period of notice that is twice as long as the time to be requested, whichever is longer. For example, three days' notice would be required to take 1 day of carer’s leave, whilst 6 days' notice would be required to take 3 days of leave.

An employer cannot request that an employee provides any evidence in relation to a request for leave. Further, as with other forms of family related leave, employees will be protected from any dismissal or detriment suffered as a result of having taken the leave. An employee continues to be employed under their contract of employment whilst on leave, and is entitled to return to their same job after taking leave.

A request for leave may be postponed by an employer, but only if it reasonably considers that the operation of the business would be unduly disrupted and the employee is permitted to take their requested period of leave within one month of the original request date. The employer must give notice of postponement in writing as soon as possible and in any event before the date the leave was due to commence.

What does this legislation mean for employers?

Employers should inform employees of their right to take leave as a carer and ensure they know how to request it.

As mentioned, potential eligibility for carer’s leave is broad. Many of us may have caring responsibilities at some point in our lives. As a result, this leave may be utilised by a large number of the workforce across the calendar year.

It will be important to have a carer’s leave policy in place that provides guidance to staff as to what their entitlement is and how leave may be taken. Employers may also seek to identify who holds caring responsibilities amidst their workforce, in order to provide additional support and to better manage any competing requests for leave (for any reason) across the business.

Employers may also consider this a good opportunity to go beyond the legislation, for example by:

  • offering enhanced leave, for example more than 5 days and/or paid leave;
  • flexible working adjustments and arrangements, such as job sharing, hybrid working, compressed hours, offering regular shift patterns, or permitting periods of adjustment leave for new found carers;
  • offering other forms of support, such as setting up a Carers’ network for staff to gain peer connection and support.

Final thoughts

Although the carer’s leave legislation is a step in the right direction, some have argued that it does not go far enough. Caring responsibilities vary in each individual case. Caregiving may be during an emergency, short term or long term. It may involve the provision of physical care, personal care, emotional support or practical support with household tasks. In that context, 5 days of unpaid time off may not be sufficient for an employee who provides long term care to a loved one.

However, until now there has been no explicit support in place for carers in the workplace. This legislation puts a spotlight on those with caring responsibilities for the first time; these employees are no longer an afterthought as the challenges of caregiving have been officially recognised. Having a carer’s leave policy in place may encourage employees to share their circumstances with their employer, reduce stigma around caring responsibilities and empower employees to exercise their right to time off from work. Employers can now take steps to care for the caregiver.

For more information on how we can support you to support the carers in your workplace please contact Manon Rattle or another member of the Employment Team.


Employee wellbeing series

Other articles in the series so far:

  1. Employee wellbeing
  2. Menopause in the workplace
  3. Supporting employees through fertility challenges
  4. Flexible working


employeewellbeing, employment