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20 Dec 2023

New statutory right to Carer's Leave to be introduced from 6 April 2024

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Employees will have a new statutory right to take one week of unpaid leave per year to provide or arrange care for a dependant with a long-term care need. The new entitlement to carer's leave is expected to apply from 6 April 2024 and details are set out in The Carer's Leave Regulations 2024 which have been published in draft form.

Who is entitled to carer's leave?

This will be a right afforded to all employees who meet the eligibility requirements and is a "day one" right meaning it does not require a particular length of service. To be eligible for carer's leave, an employee must:

  • have a dependant with a long-term care need;
  • want to be absent from work to provide or arrange care for that dependant; and
  • not have exceeded their entitlement of one week of carer's leave in the relevant 12-month period.

A person is a "dependant" of an employee if they (i) are a spouse, civil partner, child or parent of the employee; (ii) live in the same household as the employee, otherwise than by reason of being the employee’s boarder, employee, lodger or tenant, or; (iii) reasonably rely on the employee to provide or arrange care.

A "long-term care need" is defined as an illness or injury (whether 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". The carer's leave can be taken in half day or individual day increments up to one continuous week in a 12-month period. The leave does not need to be taken on consecutive days.

What are the practical steps for employees and employers?

The employee must give notice to their employer before taking carer's leave, specifying that they are entitled to the leave, the days or part days on which they intend to take it, and the dependant for whom they are providing or arranging care. However, the employer cannot require the employee to supply evidence in relation to their request for carer's leave before granting the leave. The required notice period is either twice as many days as the period of leave required, or three days, whichever is the greater.

The employer may postpone the carer's leave if they reasonably consider that the operation of their business would be unduly disrupted if the employee took carer's leave during the period intended in the notice. However, they can only agree to postpone it if the employer allows the employee to take a period of carer's leave within a month of the period initially requested and if they give the employee a written notice within seven days of the initial request or before the earliest day or part day requested in the employee's notice.

Protections

The employee is protected from any detriment or dismissal by the employer because they took, sought to take, or made use of the benefits of carer's leave, or because the employer believed that they were likely to take carer's leave.

The regulations do not affect any contractual rights to carer's leave that the employee may have, but the employee cannot exercise the statutory and contractual rights separately. The employee can take advantage of whichever right is more favourable in any particular respect.

What next?

The right is coming into force in April 2024. In the meantime, employers should consider the interplay of this statutory right with any contractual or carer policies that they currently have in place. In particular:

  • Consider creating or updating policies to cover the new right;
  • Consider a record-keeping process to track the number of days/part-days of carer's leave which is taken by employees; and
  • Inform and educate managers about the new entitlement, how it will operate in practice and the protections offered to employees who intend to or who do take the leave.

If you have any questions on this alert or any other employment law matter please contact Paul Reeves, Leanne Raven or your usual Stephenson Harwood contact.

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KEY CONTACT

Paul Reeves

Paul Reeves
Head of employment

T:  +44 20 7809 2916 M:  +44 7919 694 135 Email Paul | Vcard Office:  London

Leanne Raven

Leanne Raven
Senior knowledge lawyer

T:  +44 20 7809 2560 M:  +44 7827 353 108 Email Leanne | Vcard Office:  London