The government has confirmed that carers will have a new right to one week of unpaid leave each year to carry out caring responsibilities. Employees will be able to take time off work ‘to provide care, or make arrangements for the provision of care, for a dependant who requires long-term care’ and they will enjoy the entitlement from day one of their employment.
The details of the new right are set out in the government’s response to a consultation which closed last year. That consultation was part of the government’s wider commitment to consider dedicated employment rights for carers alongside existing employment rights, recognising that unpaid carers face unique challenges when balancing work and caring responsibilities.
The new right will apply to employees only, with eligibility depending on the employee’s relationship with the person for whom they provide the care. Broadly, the relationship should follow the definition of ‘dependant’ that is used for the right to time off for dependants.
There is no timetable for this yet - the government just says it looks forward to introducing the new entitlement ‘when parliamentary time allows’.
The key features of the new right are that it will be available to the employee irrespective of how long they have worked for their employer, the carer’s relationship with the person being cared for or if the person being cared for has a long-term need. It can be used to provide personal and practical support, help with financial matters and personal or medical care.
Although we don’t yet know when this will be brought in, we are nonetheless alerting clients in good time so they understand the potential implications of this new right. It’s not a big change, but nonetheless there are a few practical steps employers will need to take in due course once we see draft regulations. To find out more on that I spoke to Gemma Lennie who joined me by video-link from Edinburgh:
Gemma Lennie: “Yes, so I think there are a few considerations for employers that we will be advising clients of. The first one of those is updating and creating policies, informing employees for the right and how to request and take the carers leave. The other point to consider is record keeping. Now, obviously, there's a week of carers leave, that's the entitlement, but you can take that in a block or you can take that in individual days which, in aggregate, will amount to a week so it's important to keep assist a record keeping system of that. The other point is self-certification forms and creating those. Now, there is no formal requirement for certification or evidence to take carers leave but it is important that the individuals meet the legal definition of being a carer and that they're taking the carers leave for the purpose of caring for somebody under the legislation. Now obviously, if somebody falsely applied for the leave through a self-certification form that the company had created that might be a basis for going down a disciplinary route so it's just important to have these safeguards in place, we think, but also just to keep the business and the individual right. The other thing to consider is informing managers and employers of the right and talking them through that. Now there may be some individuals who are a carer but haven't told their colleagues or their line manager about that and don't feel comfortable talking about that at work and don't want to share that with their colleagues or line manager. So it's just about dealing with those sensitivities and making sure that if they don't want that information passed on necessarily, you're dealing with that in the correct way. The other thing is to be mindful of the fact that some people may not want to take the carers leave because it is unpaid, it’s a week of unpaid leave, but it's important, I think, to encourage opening up the communications with individuals and they can talk about their caring responsibilities and how the business may be able to support them because there may be other forms of leave that they can take. So, annual leave may be more appropriate if somebody, for example a family member, is going in for a minor operation, for example, and you can foresee that they will need care for a while after that operation, then annual leave may be more appropriate, or there's time off for looking after dependents. Now that is more of an emergency right to take leave, and you don't necessarily need to give notice because, obviously, it's used in emergencies so that might be more appropriate than taking carers leave but it's just exploding that with individuals and I think it's really important that this kind of right opens up the lines of communication between employers and employees so that they feel comfortable discussing it with the business.”
There is no timetable for this yet - the government just says it looks forward to introducing the new entitlement ‘when parliamentary time allows’. Meanwhile, as we wait for the draft regulations, you can find details of the government’s proposals in their response to the consultation. We have put a link to that document in the transcript of this programme.
- Link to Carer’s Leave Consultation - Government Response