Carers leave

Understanding unpaid carer's leave and your employee's entitlement to taking carer's leave

First published on Friday, Dec 17, 2021

Last updated on Tuesday, Apr 30, 2024

Working carers' lives can often be unpredictable and it can be tricky for them to balance their caring responsibilities with their work ones.

Under the Carer's Leave Act 2023, your employees with caring responsibilities have the right to carer's leave. As an employer, you are responsible for handling your employee's request to take carer's leave.

In this guide, we’ll explain what carers leave is, what employees are entitled to, how they can apply for it and your responsibilities.

What is carer's leave?

Carer's leave is when an employee takes time off work to arrange care or care for a dependant who has a long-term care need. It's a new entitlement and statutory right that allows employees to balance their paid employment and responsibilities as unpaid carers.

What is the eligibility criteria for taking carer's leave?

Employees are entitled to take carer's leave from the first day of their employment, without any minimum service requirement. The leave can be taken if the employee is responsible for arranging or providing care to a dependant, such as a parent, spouse, civil partner, or child.

However, the dependant does not have to be a family member or live in the same household. It can be any person who relies on them for care.

In the eyes of the law long-term care for a dependant is defined as:

  • A long-term illness or injury that lasts more than three months
  • A disability covered in the Equality Act 2010
  • An illness due to old age

carer hugging their dependant on carers leave

Is carer's leave paid leave or unpaid leave?

Although your employees have the right to carer's leave, there's no legal requirement for you to pay your employees while they are on leave.

As an employer, it is up to you to pay as much or as little as you wish for individual employees.

Just make sure you check your employment contracts, handbooks, and policies to outline your business rules on carer's leave pay.

How long is unpaid carer's leave

As long as your employees meet the eligibility requirements, they can take up to one week's unpaid leave to tend to any issues related to their caring responsibilities per rolling 12 months.

This 'week' refers to the number of days they typically work over seven days. For example, if your employee works five days a week, they are allowed to take five days of carer's leave.

The week of leave, however, does not need to be taken on consecutive days. They can even take a half day if they want.

It's important to note that your employees can't obtain carer's leave for each person they care for. They can only take one week over the rolling 12 months. But they are allowed to split the week's leave to use on more than one dependant.

If your employee requires more than one week's leave, there are other types of leave—from family related leave to annual leave—that they could take.

For example, if the employee is a parent and they need more time to look after their child they may be eligible for parental leave, or if they are not a parent, they could request to use their annual leave entitlements.

How should an employee request carer's leave

Your employees have to give notice before taking carer's leave. This notice period is either double the amount of time they want to take or 3 days, whichever is longer.

You also can't refuse a request for carer's leave, but you can postpone it for up to a month.

However, you must be able to prove that your business would be unduly disrupted by the employee's absence, and you must also:

  • Agree with your employee on a new date within one month of the requested leave
  • State the reason for the new date in writing to the employee within 7 days of the original request and before the requested start date of the leave

It's highly advisable to have a carer's leave policy and a self-certify application form for employees to fill in when they want to take leave.

employee on carers leave help blind dependant get out of bed

Frequently asked questions about carer's leave

Our customers ask a lot of questions about carer's leave, here are the most frequently asked topics:

Can I ask an employee to provide evidence for carer's leave?

Under UK law, you can't ask your employee to supply evidence that they qualify for carer's leave.

However, it's best practice to create a self-certification form for your employees to declare they meet the criteria under the Carer's Leave Act. You could also state that any suspected misuse of the right will be investigated and may result in disciplinary action in your leave policy.

Can carer's leave be used for emergency situations?

Carer's leave is designed for eligible employees with dependants who have long-term care needs. It requires prior notice and is not appropriate for emergencies.

Instead, your employee could request to use their statutory right to take time off for dependants which is designed for emergencies.

Is carer's leave a new law?

The Carer's Leave Act 2023 received royal assent on 24th May 2023 and came into effect on 6th April 2024.

So, if you haven't updated your policies and procedures, you need to.

How BrightHR can help you with carer's leave

To better support employees with caring responsibilities, it's important to understand why they need carer's leave. Reasonable changes in the workplace may be necessary to make these employees comfortable—like with flexible working arrangements.

And it's easy to feel overwhelmed without the right support for you and your business.

But don’t worry, BrightHR can help you prepare for an employee's request and relieve any stress you might have. Our 24/7 employment law service and advice line provides access to a team of legal experts whenever you need it.

Backed by our HR document library loaded with useful resources related to carer's leave, including a:

  • Carer's leave checklist
  • Carer's leave policy
  • Carer's leave request form
  • Letter of accepting or postponing carer's leave
  • Letter explaining the right to carer's leave
  • And more...

These resources can be downloaded at any time to help you manage carer's leave in your business. With these tools at your disposal, you know that you're in safe hands.

Plus, by having HR software with an absence tracker that tracks and monitors all types of leave, employers like you can always be sure your employees take the correct and legal leave they are entitled to.

Not a BrightHR customer? We’re here to help. Let us take the burden off your shoulders, call 0800 470 2432 to speak with a friendly advisor or see BrightHR in action.

Lucy Cobb

Employment Law Specialist

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