There are times in life when someone in employment may have to take time away from work to care for somebody else. This may be an elderly relative or even an ill child. Proposed changes to the UK law are about to make this time off statutory in many cases.
But what exactly is carer’s leave and how can businesses ensure they manage it effectively (and legally)? In this guide we look to answer these questions and many more.
What is carer’s leave?
Carer’s leave allows employees to leave work temporarily to provide full-time care and attention for someone who needs it.
So, there’s no right to carers leave currently in the UK?
No, there isn’t. Carer’s leave is not a statutory right for employees in the UK. The Government, however, is in the process of passing a law to implement it (as of October 2022).
Just because carer’s leave isn’t a legal right, doesn’t mean that employees aren’t eligible for it, with many businesses offering it as part of their employee package.
If you aren’t sure whether carers leave is something you are entitled to, check your contract of employment.
Will I be paid whilst on carers leave?
Carer’s leave is generally unpaid in other countries where it is a statutory right but your job will be kept open for you when you return. Indications from the Government’s consultation period for the proposed law suggest this will be the same in the UK.
That doesn’t mean you won’t get paid, as it is expected that some employers may offer pay as part of their benefits package.
It may also be possible for some employees to qualify for Government benefits once the law is in place, but without the final legal wording being available, it is impossible to say if this will be the case.
Which employees can get carer’s leave?
According to the consultation paper, to get carer’s leave, an employee must be classed as an employee and the person they are to care for must be a dependent. A dependent in UK law is classified as:
- A spouse
- A partner
- Someone who lives with the employee who is dependent on them for care
- Someone else who reasonably relies on the employee for care
On top of this, the person they are caring for must need full-time care and attention and must need someone with them at all times to either:
- Keep them safe and help them throughout the day with their normal personal needs, such as eating, drinking, washing and dressing.
- Protect them from being a danger to themselves.
How long does an employee have to be employed before they will be eligible for carers leave?
The Government’s consultation paper states that carers leave will be a day-one right for all employees.
What can carers’ leave be taken for?
Caring comprises a wide range of activities. For example, caring may mean looking after a parent by keeping them company or helping them with practical tasks, such as shopping or banking. For others, caring can involve cohabiting and support with personal care such as washing and getting dressed. Such activities may be a part of the daily routine of a carer or relate to a time when the need is heightened such as illness, accidents or end of life.
The varied nature of caring could make it challenging for employees and employers to identify what the proper use of the leave should be. To combat this, the Government proposes to define ‘caring’ broadly for the purposes of carer’s leave and has indicated that it could be given for the following reasons:
- Providing personal support, such as keeping an eye out for someone, keeping them company and staying in touch.
- Providing practical support, such as making meals, going shopping, laundry, cleaning, gardening, maintenance and other help around the house.
- Helping with official or financial matters, such as helping with paperwork, paying bills, collecting pension (or other benefits).
- Providing personal or medical care, such as collecting prescriptions, giving medications, as well as helping them move around the home, getting dressed, feeding, washing,
What can’t carer’s leave be taken for?
The purpose of carer’s leave is to help people who struggle to remain in work due to caring commitments by offering them further flexibility to provide care.
There are some situations which the Government have indicated that they do not currently view as being eligible for carer’s leave:
- Childcare, other than where the child meets the general conditions for care. For example, if the child has a condition which lasts for more than six months, a disability or a terminal illness their carer would qualify for the leave.
- Supporting recovery, such as caring for a person who is usually able to live independently but needs support for a limited time period such as recovery after an accident or minor operation. Emergency situations involving a dependant are covered by the right to time off for dependants.
How long is the carer’s leave for?
The current proposal is for employees to be eligible for one week of carer’s leave per working year.
How can carer’s leave be taken?
How the leave would be available to take is not altogether clear but The Government have suggested two options:
- As a single block of one whole working week (pro-rated for part-time employees).
- As individual days or half-days, up to one whole week (pro-rated for part-time employees).
Until the final details of the law are published and passed, it is impossible to say how employees will be able to take carer’s leave.
How much notice does an employee need to give if they want carer’s leave?
Again, this isn’t clear right now, although feedback from the Government consultation seems to suggest that a notice period of double the amount of leave will need to be given. For example, if an employee wants to take the full week’s allocation of carer’s leave, they would need to give 2 weeks notice.
Looking after a loved one can be a stressful experience but the proposed carer’s leave law may help alleviate this a little. Consider Papershift’s staff leave planner to automate staff absence management, automate payroll and stay the right side of the law.
- Clock in and out from browser
- Time tracking via Phone & Tablet app
- View & approve time records online
- Export timesheets to payroll
- View & approve staff vacation requests
- Overview of employee availability & absences
We hope you have enjoyed this guide. For more useful workplace guides, check out the rest of our website.