The 2019 Conservative manifesto attempted to combat workplace inequalities by proposing a number of policies, including a proposal to extend leave entitlement for unpaid carers - the majority of whom are women. On 16 March 2020, the Government opened a consultation on its proposal to give employees who are also unpaid carers one week's additional unpaid leave each year.
The Government has now confirmed that it will introduce a right for unpaid carers to take up to five working days of unpaid leave each year, when Parliamentary time allows.
The response to the consultation recognised that juggling caring responsibilities and work led to limited participation by such carers in the labour market, and that women were disproportionately affected. The Government also recognised that COVID-19 resulted in individuals and families balancing work with other responsibilities, and that leave for unpaid carers is even more necessary than before.
Employees who take carer's leave will be protected from detriment, and dismissals for reasons connected with exercising the right to carer's leave will be automatically unfair.
It is proposed that carer's leave can be used for providing care or making arrangements for the provision of care for a dependent requiring long-term care. There will likely be a broad definition of what such leave my be used for, though the Government emphasised it is important for carer's leave to focus on long-term care needs.
The leave can be taken flexibly, in half days, full days, or multiple days.
Carer's leave will be available to employees from day one - there will be no minimum number of days they must be employed for before taking advantage of this right.
Employees will be able to take carer's leave for individuals:
Employees will not need to provide evidence of their entitlement to the leave. If a false application is submitted, employers may deal with it in the same way as a false claim for sickness absence or other disciplinary matter.
Employees will need to give notice of carer's leave which is twice the length of the leave being requested, plus one day.
Employers will be entitled to postpone the request if and only if they consider the operation of their business will be unduly disrupted. They cannot deny a request.