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Unpaid Leave for Unpaid Carers - What Does the Government Propose?

on Friday, 08 October 2021.

Five million people in the UK provide unpaid care, almost half of whom are also in work. It is likely that, given the UK's ageing population, the number of people providing unpaid care will increase.

How Has the Government Responded?

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 Consultation Results

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.

Coronavirus guidance employers

Who Is Eligible?

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:

  • including spouses, partners, children, parents or a person who lives in the same household as the employee (this does not include employees, tenants, lodgers or borders of the carer), or a person who reasonably relies on the employee for care
  • who have a long-term care need - defined as illness or injury (including mental illness), a disability as defined under the Equality Act 2010, or issues relating to old age - there will be limited exemptions from this requirement of 'long-term care need' - for example, terminal illness

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.

Notice of Leave

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. 

If you would like specialist advice in relation to leave entitlement, please contact Helen Hughes in our Employment Law team on 020 7665 0816 or please complete the form below.

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