The government will be introducing a new law that gives one week (five working days) of unpaid leave to employees with caring responsibilities. This means eligible employees will be able to take time off work to care for a spouse, partner, child, or another dependant with a long-term care need.
Chief executive of Carers UK, Helen Walker, says this new bill should help employers ‘retain talent and skills within their staff teams and avoid additional recruitment costs’.
How will it work? Here’s what you need to know…
What’s does the new rule mean?
Under the current rules, there are only two types of statutory unpaid leave:
- 18 weeks of unpaid parental leave per child up to the age of 18.
- Emergency time off for dependants.
So, many employees have been using other forms of leave to look after other dependants. Which means dipping into their paid holiday or, in some cases, having to leave their jobs…
Under the Carer’s Leave bill, employees will have a right to have up to one week of unpaid leave to provide or arrange care.
Who has the right to carer’s leave?
Only ‘employees’ will have the right to unpaid carer’s leave, so this will not apply to ‘workers’ or the self-employed.
If you’re not sure whether someone has ‘employee’ status, you’ll need to check they meet the specific criteria.
Employees will also be entitled to carer’s leave from day one and there’s no minimum requirement for how long they need to have worked for the company.
Dependants will also need to meet specific criteria
To get carer’s leave, the employee’s dependant must be:
- a spouse, partner, child, parent, or someone who lives in the same household and relies on their care
Plus, they will need to have one of the following…
- a disability listed in the Equality Act
- a long-term illness or injury
- issues related to old age or terminal illness
Eligible employees can take carer’s leave flexibly
Your eligible employees will be able to take their carer’s leave in whichever way suits them best. This might be taking individual days, half-days, or a block of up to one week.
You cannot refuse a carer’s leave request
You won’t be able to refuse a request for carer’s leave.
You can postpone leave requests if you absolutely need to
If you really cannot approve a request, you may be able postpone the leave. This might be if your business is particularly busy, and you’d be understaffed. However, you would only be able to postpone if the time off would cause serious disruption.
Staff aren’t entitled to paid leave (but you can pay if you want to)
Whilst you have no obligation to pay staff for taking carer’s leave, you can if you want to. It can be a great way to boost morale and show your support as an employer.
If you do offer this extra pay for carer’s leave, you’ll need to make sure you offer it consistently. And you should also outline details of it in your employee handbook.
What do I need to do now?
The law isn’t yet finalised but it’s important to stay updated as it passes through Parliament.
When the time comes, you’ll need to be able to manage your carer’s leave requests and staffing levels. That’s why you should prepare in advance to avoid major disruption to your business.
Once the law is in effect, you’ll need to make sure your policies and procedures are in line with it and communicate these changes to your workforce.
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