Carer’s Leave Act 2023
Author: Beth Gilbert
Key Contact: Claire Knowles
The Carer’s Leave Act 2023 became law on 24 May 2023, introducing a statutory entitlement to take a week of unpaid leave per year to provide care. The Carer’s Leave Regulations 2024 have now been published in draft form, outlining how this entitlement will work in practice.
Who is entitled to take carer’s leave?
From 6 April 2024, an employee who has a dependant with a long-term care need is eligible to take carer’s leave. This can be broken down as follows:
- The employee does not need to meet any minimum service requirements. The leave is a ‘day one’ right.
- A dependant includes a spouse, civil partner, child, parent, a person who lives in the same household as the employee (other than by reason of them being their employee, tenant, lodger, or boarder), or generally is a person who reasonably relies on the employee for care.
- A long-term care need is an illness or injury (either physical or mental) that requires or is likely to require care for more than three months, a disability under the Equality Act 2010, or issues related to old age.
How can career’s leave be taken?
One week’s unpaid leave can be taken by an employee to provide or arrange care in each rolling 12-month period. The entitlement to one week’s leave is the maximum any employee could be entitled to, irrespective of how many dependants an employee has. The leave may be taken in either individual days or half days, up to a block of one week. There is no requirement to take the leave on consecutive days, therefore employees could take five separate days over a 12-month rolling period.
The required notice period is either twice as many days as the period of leave required, or three days, whichever is the greater. The notice does not need to be in writing and an employer cannot require evidence in relation to the request before granting the leave. An employer may waive the notice requirement where the other requirements of the regulations have been met.
Can an employer decline a request for carer’s leave?
An employer cannot decline a request for carer’s leave but can postpone carer’s leave where the following apply:
- The employer reasonably considers that the operation of the business would be unduly disrupted if it allowed the leave during the requested period.
- The employer allows the employee to take a period of carer’s leave of the same duration, within a month of the period initially requested.
- The employer gives the employee a written notice within seven days of the initial request, setting out the reason for the postponement and the agreed dates on which the leave can be taken.
Additionally, employers cannot penalise any employee choosing to take advantage of carer’s leave once it is brought into force. Dismissal of an employee for a reason connected with their taking carer’s leave will be automatically unfair. Employees are also entitled to return to the same job they were doing immediately before they took carer’s leave.
The Carer’s Leave Act 2023 represents a significant step forward in recognising the importance of caregiving and providing support to those who need it. With these new protections in place, employees can feel more secure in taking the time they need to care for their loved ones, and employers can maintain a positive workplace culture. Whilst the entitlement does not come into force until 6 April 2024, employers should prepare the necessary mechanisms to facilitate carer’s leave ahead of time to ensure compliance with the law. If you need guidance on your approach to complying with this statutory entitlement, please contact the Employment team at Acuity Law.