The Carer’s Leave Act 2023

The Carer’s Leave Act 2023 aims to help millions of workers who need to provide or arrange care for a dependant. This important act received Royal Assent in May and is expected to come into force in Spring or Summer 2024. It will be a day 1 right, so employers need to be aware of the Carer’s Leave Act and start considering how best to update in-house polices.

Carer’s Leave

The Carer’s Leave Act applies to England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales. The Act introduces an entitlement to 5 working days of unpaid leave per year for an employee arranging or providing care for a dependant. How this leave can be taken is currently unclear, but the expectation is that a degree of flexibility will be allowed. So, half days, full days or a block or 5 days are likely to be permissible.

Who can be classed as a dependant?

A person is a dependant of an employee if they are a spouse, civil partner, child or parent of the employee. A person living in the same household as the employee also qualifies as a dependant providing they are not the employee’s lodger or tenant.

Carers leave

What is a long-term care need?

The Act makes it clear that a dependant must have a long-term care need. This is deemed to be,

  1. An illness or injury (whether physical or mental) that requires, or is likely to require, care for more than 3 months
  2. A disability for the purposes of the Equality Act 2010
  3. Care for a reason connected with their old age

At present, it is unclear whether employees caring for terminally ill dependants will also benefit from the Carer’s Leave Act. What is clear is that there isn’t a need for an employee to furnish the employer with proof that a dependant needs long-term care. The final regulations may even state that an employer cannot require an employee to provide evidence of a need to request carer’s leave.

An employee will need to give adequate notice of their intention to takes carer’s leave, but we need to see the final regulations for clarification. While an employer cannot deny a qualifying request for carer’s leave, they can postpone it. That being said, any unreasonable postponement could result in a tribunal claim – more on that a little later.

Caring for a spouse

The UK’s unpaid carers

The Office for National Statistics crunched the numbers to a question posed in the Census of 2021 – “Do you look after, or give any help or support to anyone because they have long-term physical or mental health conditions or illnesses, or problems related to old age?” How many people do you think answered ‘Yes’? Half a million, 2 million? 5 million responded in the affirmative.

Those who normally resided in England or Wales, aged 5 years and over categorised the number of unpaid care hours provided each week.

1.8 million people provided 9 hours or less, 678,000 provided 10 – 19 hours, 483,000 20 – 34 hours, 552,000 people 35 – 49 hours and 1.5 million people provided 50 or more hours of unpaid care a week. Compared to the Census of 2011, the proportion of people providing the most amount of care increased. These are sobering statistics.

The penalties for ignoring the Carer’s Leave bill

If an employer unreasonably postpones or prevents an employee from taking carer’s leave, they could well find themselves attending an employment tribunal. Compensation could be payable and the amount would reflect the employer’s behaviour and any consequential loss sustained by the employee.

While we await further regulations, it is a good opportunity for business owners and line managers to review in-house policies and prepare for changes that will affect most workforces. If you require further guidance and assistance, please get in touch.

Carer’s Leave Act 2023 key points

  • The Act has received Royal Assent and will come into force in 2024
  • Applies to England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales
  • An employee providing or arranging care for a dependant will be entitled to 5 working days unpaid leave per year
  • It will be a day 1 right
  • An employer can postpone a qualifying carer’s leave request but not deny it
  • Implementing Regulations awaited

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