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New employers’ guidance on unpaid carers leave

In the UK 1 in 8 adults are carers and 1 in 7 of those adults are also in the workforce – some five million people.  The majority of carers are women – 58% vs 42% men and it is estimated that 600 people each day give up work to care for an older or disabled relative.

Many people have taken on additional caring responsibilities through the pandemic, so in 2020, the Government held a consultation into the right for unpaid carers to be entitled to unpaid carers leave.

The Government’s response to the consultation is new guidance for employers, so how can you help support your employers who are also unpaid carers?

The new guidance covers all employees regardless of their length of service, but it doesn’t extend to workers and the leave is currently one week of unpaid leave per year.  Whilst this isn’t yet covered by legislation employers might want to consider whether it is possible to implement this entitlement now to help motivate and keep employees in the workforce, at a time when many businesses are experiencing recruitment difficulties.

An employees’ entitlement to the leave will depend on their relationship to the person, so it will cover employees caring for their spouse, civil partner, child, parent, or someone living in the same household (excluding a tenant, lodger, or boarder), or someone who relies on them for care, such as a grandparent or sibling.

To qualify for the care the person being cared for must also have long-term care needs which includes someone with a disability, someone with issues relating to old age or someone with a terminal illness.

The government wants the leave to be flexible, so it can be taken either as a whole week or individual whole days or half days.  Employees should give notice of their intention to take the leave at least twice the length of the time requested plus a day, however in practice this may not be possible if it is an emergency situation.  Employees will be able to self-certify that they qualify and will not need to produce evidence, although any false claim would be dealt with as an employer would a false claim for sick leave or any other disciplinary matter.  It is important that your employee contracts, handbook, and other internal documents are updated to cover this and any other changes you make, along with staff training for those authorising the leave and ways of tracking it.

Employers, once the legislation is enacted, must make sure that employees who take the leave are not treated differently to those who don’t need to take it, as employees will be protected from unfair dismissal including those who do not have two years’ service (as the entitlement starts from day one of their employment).

If you would like to discuss implementing unpaid carers leave for your employees, get in touch with our team today.