Preparing for new HR laws: Carer’s leave

  • Employment Law
New Carer's Leave
Kate Palmer FCIPD - Director of HR Advice and Consultancy at global employment law consultancy, Peninsula.

Kate Palmer, HR Advice and Consultancy Director

(Last updated )

Lots of HR changes are here this April. Now, we unpack a brand new law that impacts staff with caring responsibilities…

On 6th April, your staff received a brand new legal right.

This right entitles eligible employees to take time off to provide or arrange care for someone with a long-term care need.

This is a totally new right – so you’ll need new policies and procedures to roll out this update. So, let’s explore what this means for your HR…

Who will be eligible for carer’s leave?

To be eligible for time off, your employee must be requesting the time off to support a dependant.

Legally speaking, a ‘dependant’ is someone who relies on your employee for care, like a spouse, partner, child, or parent. It can also be someone outside of the household, like an elderly neighbour.

And to qualify for this leave, your employee’s dependant must also have a long-term care need. So, this would be an illness or injury (either physical or mental) that is or is likely to:

1. Require care for longer than three months

2. Be a disability under the Equality Act

3. Be related to old age

Your employee won’t have to work for you for a certain length of time before receiving this right. They’ll be eligible from the day they start working for you.

What will employees be entitled to?

This new law means that eligible staff can take up to one working week off within a 12-month period.

A ‘working week’ is the length of time your employee usually works in a week. If that varies, you’d need to work out the average.

It’s up to your staff how they use this leave – they can take it in one big block, individual one-off days, or half-days.

Staff can only use this leave for providing or sorting out care for a dependant – they can’t use this time off for any other reason.

Will staff receive paid time off?

You won’t need to pay staff for using carer’s leave. This is an unpaid statutory entitlement.

However, you can choose to provide pay if you’d like to. If you do offer pay, make sure you inform staff and outline this in your employee handbook.

Can’t staff already take emergency leave for dependants?

Currently, staff can look after dependants using ‘time off for dependants’.

But while the new carer’s leave and time off for dependants seem similar, there are a few important differences between the two.

First, employees should only use ‘time off for dependants’ for emergency situations – like if their child suffers an unexpected injury. As this is for emergencies, you can’t expect staff to provide notice for this leave. There’s also no set limit on the number of days they can take off.

However, the new carer’s leave right isn’t for emergency situations. It’s exclusively for employees who support dependants with a long-term care need. And as mentioned, employees can only take one working week of carer’s leave per rolling 12 months – that’s their maximum allowance.

Plus, employees will have to provide a minimum amount of notice to take carer’s leave.

How much notice will my employee have to provide?

Your employee will need to give you a minimum amount of notice to take carer’s leave.

This should either be:

  1. Double the amount of time they’ve requested off, or
  2. Three days

They should give you whichever option gives you the most amount of time.

Avoid making these mistakes…

Remember, eligible staff will be legally entitled to this extra leave.

So, you can’t refuse it – meaning you may need to consider staffing levels and how you’ll fill extra absences.

You’ll also want to keep track of which employees use carer’s leave, and how often. Not keeping track will mean you won’t know whether staff have gone over their allowance.

Remember, you’ll need to record this separately to other types of leave. And you also can’t count carer’s leave as an absence trigger for disciplinary action. Carer’s leave is an additional entitlement, on top of annual leave or sick leave – meaning you’ll need to report it separately.

The next steps for your HR

First, you’ll need to inform staff about their new right.

Not just staff you think could be eligible – but make your entire workforce aware. As part of this, you’ll need to update employee handbooks and workplace policies with the new right.

With another type of absence to monitor, it’s also worth using HR software. This will help you record time off and keep up with your employee’s available allowance. Plus, with rota and shift planning tools, you may find it easier to re-allocate and adjust staff shifts around any absences – including carer’s leave.

Discover an easier way to update your HR…

The new carer’s leave right will impact every employer in the UK. So if you employ staff, you’ll need to prepare your HR ahead of April…

For over 44,000 employers, that will be an easy task – because their Peninsula consultants will guide them through it.  

As a Peninsula client, you have unlimited access to…

  • Expert HR documentation – Peninsulas employment law experts will update your HR documentation whenever the law changes. So, you can focus on your business, knowing you’re legally up to date – with the paperwork to prove it.
  • Leave and absence tools – Track and report all kinds of absence online, with tech that makes sure you’re providing the correct entitlement.
  • Rota planning tools – Rearrange and reassign shifts in the tap of a button if staff need to take carer’s leave.
  • Legal advice – Speak to an employment law expert as often as you like – and check you’re doing all you can to meet new HR laws.

… helping you free up time and cut risk to your business.

Tap below to speak to an HR adviser and get free advice about carer’s leave, or any other employment law query:

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