United Kingdom: Employees will have the right to take carer's leave from April 2024

In brief

Employees will have a statutory right to a week's unpaid leave each year to care for a dependent from 6 April 2024.


Contents

Key takeaways

  • Carer's leave allows employees to provide or arrange care for a dependent (defined to include not only immediate family or household members but anyone who reasonably relies on the employee for care) with a long-term care need.
  • Carer's leave is a day one right for all employees, with no minimum service requirements.
  • Carer's leave can be taken in half, one or multi-day blocks, up to a week's leave in total.
  • For advice or to discuss what this means for you and your business, please contact your usual Baker McKenzie.

In more detail

The Carer's Leave Regulations 2024 have been laid before Parliament and are expected to be made shortly. They set out details of the scheme intended under the Carer's Leave Act 2023, as previously reported.

Employers will need to decide whether they wish to enhance the new rights, for example, by paying for some or all of the leave, as part of an employee benefits package to recruit, retain, and support employees with caring responsibilities. Some employers may already offer a form of contractual carer's leave. If so, the employee may choose whether to use their contractual or statutory entitlement, subject to the minimum protections offered by statute. Employers already offering contractual leave should consider whether that policy should be updated to reflect the new law.

Under the Regulations, all employees will have the right from the first day of their employment to take up to one week's unpaid leave to provide or arrange care for a dependent with a long-term care need. "Dependent" includes a spouse, civil partner, or parent, as well as any person who lives in the same household as the employee (as long as this is not because they are their employee, tenant, lodger, or boarder) or anyone who reasonably relies on the employee for care. Employees are entitled to a maximum of one week's carer's leave per year in total, not one week per dependent.

A "long-term care need" is:

  • An illness or injury (whether physical or mental) that does, or is likely to, require care for more than three months.
  • A disability under the Equality Act 2010.
  • Issues relating to old age.

Employees wishing to take carer's leave must give notice to their employer of the greater of, at least twice the period of time that they wish to take, or three days. The minimum leave that must be taken is half a working day at a time, and the days do not have to be consecutive. The notice does not have to be in writing but must include the fact that the employee is entitled to take the carer's leave and the day, days, or part-days that will be taken. There is no requirement that the employee prove their eligibility to take leave.

An employer may not reject a request for a carer's leave but can postpone it if they reasonably consider that business operations would be unduly disrupted. In those circumstances, the employer must serve a counter-notice within seven days of the request explaining the reason and the revised dates, which must be within a month of the original request.

An employee who believes their employer has unreasonably postponed, prevented, or attempted to prevent them from taking their carer's leave can bring an employment tribunal claim. A tribunal has the power to make a declaration and to award just and equitable compensation, taking into account the behaviour of the employer and any losses sustained by the employee. Any dismissal for a reason connected with an employee's asking to take or having taken a carer's leave will also be automatically unfair. Employees returning from carer's leave are entitled to come back to the same job as they were doing immediately before their leave.


For advice or to discuss what this means for you and your business, please contact your usual Baker McKenzie contact.

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