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Home / News and Insights / Blogs / Employment Law / 343: Unpaid carers entitled to unpaid leave

In its recent response to the March 2020 consultation on carers’ leave, the government has confirmed that unpaid carers will have a new statutory right to take up to 5 working days’ unpaid leave per year. The proposals form part of wider reforms to allow greater flexibility in working habits and to address the challenges faced by unpaid carers in balancing work and caring responsibilities. Today’s blog outlines who will qualify for this new form of leave and when it can be taken.

Eligibility

  • This will be a ‘day one’ right, available to all employees;
  • The person being cared for must have a long-term care need, which is defined as a long-term illness or injury, a disability as defined in the Equality Act 2010, or issues related to old age. There will be limited exemptions from the requirement for long-term care, for example, in the case of terminal illness; and
  • The person being cared for must also be a ‘dependant’, which will broadly follow the same definition as the right to take time off for dependants (spouse, partner, civil partner, child, parent, or someone who reasonably relies on the employee for care).

What type of care qualifies?

  • The leave may be used for providing care or making arrangements for the provision of care; and
  • Childcare will not qualify for unpaid carers’ leave as it is already covered by other forms of leave such as emergency time off for dependants and unpaid parental leave.

Taking unpaid carers’ leave

  • Leave can be taken flexibly in either individual days or half days, up to a block of one week;
  • The employee must give notice which is twice the length of the leave requested plus one day. This is the same notice required to take statutory annual leave;
  • Employers will be able to postpone, but not deny, a request for carers leave only if they consider that the operation of the business will be unduly disrupted;
  • Employees will be able to self-certify their entitlement to leave without needing to provide evidence; and
  • Carers will have a statutory right to be protected from detriment for taking leave and dismissals connected with exercising the right will be automatically unfair.

The government’s proposed leave entitlement will apply to England, Wales and Scotland. Currently, no concrete timescale to enact the legislation has been given as of yet but government have said that it will happen as soon as ‘parliamentary time allows’. We will continue to provide updates as they become available.

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