New Entitlements for Carers

As the holiday season gets underway, employers should check they are on track with the new rules for carer’s leave and that they have a process for handling requests and recording the time taken off.

Carer’s leave is a new entitlement to unpaid time off which came into effect in April and allows for the equivalent of one working week to be taken as unpaid leave in every 12-month period.  If the time worked each week varies, then it will be the average.  The leave can be taken as a single block, one-off days or half-days, but must be wholly to support a dependant with long-term care needs and not for any other reason. 

Eligibility and Usage

This includes providing or arranging care for someone with a physical or mental illness or injury, a disability, or care needs because of their old age.  It can be anyone who relies on them for care, whether a family member or not. Regardless of the number of dependants an employee has, the maximum entitlement remains one week of leave per year. Both full-time and part-time employees can request carer’s leave from their first day of employment.

Any time taken off as carer’s leave needs to be logged separately from other leave and employees will have to provide a minimum amount of notice – either double the amount of time they’ve requested off, or three days, whichever is longer.

“This is a new and different type of leave that requires a separate process and separate recording,” explained Head of Employment Law, Nour Belal. “Unlike other leave that is available for those with dependants, this is not to cover emergency situations, so it should be possible to plan better within the working schedule.  A self-certification system is worth considering, for employees to confirm they have a dependant with long-term care needs, alongside an update to policies to reflect the new entitlement, and a recording system to log any leave taken.”

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Comparison with Parental Leave

It’s important to distinguish carer’s leave from parental leave. Parents are entitled to unpaid parental leave to care for their children, totaling 18 weeks per child until they reach 18 years of age. Parental leave is restricted to four weeks per child each year and must be taken in whole weeks unless the employer agrees to shorter periods or if the child is disabled. This leave becomes available after one year of employment and requires 21 days’ notice. Records of parental leave are also transferred to new employers if the employee changes jobs.

Our Employment Law Team has a wealth of experience advising employers and employees on the policies and procedures around this matter. If you are a business or an employee facing a potential claim, give Nour Belal and her employment team, a call on 01256 844888 or email them via our enquiry form on our website.

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