The UK government has published its response to the consultation on carer’s leave. The response recognises that juggling caring responsibilities and work can limit the participation of unpaid carers in the labour market and as women tend to be the primary caregivers within families, they tend to be disproportionately affected.
The new statutory right to carer’s leave will:
- Be available to employees regardless of how long they have worked for their employer.
- Rely on the relationship of the employee with the individual being cared for, broadly following the definition of “dependant” which applies to the right to take time off for dependants – a spouse, partner, civil partner, child, parent, a person who lives in the same household as the employee (other than by reason of being their employee, tenant etc.) or who reasonably relies on the employee for care.
- Depend on the individual being cared for having a long-term care need – a disability, long-term illness or injury or issues relating to old age. There will be limited exemptions from the requirement for long-term care, for example in the case of terminal illness.
Carer’s leave entitlement can be taken flexibly, in either individual days or half days, up to a block of one week. Employees will be required to give notice of carer’s leave which is twice the length of the leave being requested, plus one day. Employers cannot deny a request for carer’s leave but will be able to postpone a request where they consider the operation of the business will be unduly disrupted – and a counter-notice will be required.
Dismissals for reasons connected with exercising the right to carer’s leave will be automatically unfair.
Key Action Points for Human Resources and In-house Counsel
Although the government says the policy will be implemented “when Parliamentary time allows”, there is no indication as to when this will be and it is not expected to be introduced imminently.
Employees will be able to self-certify their entitlement to carer’s leave without having to provide evidence, and if a false application is submitted, employers can deal with this in the same way as a false claim for sickness absence or any other disciplinary matter.