Scrase Law Employment Solicitors

Time off for carers – guidance published

The new statutory right to time off for carers is now in force. The Government and ACAS have published brief guidance which may be helpful to employers and employees.

The right to time off for carers

Employees have the right to take unpaid leave to give or arrange care for a dependant with a long-term care need.  This right applies from day one of the employee’s employment.  A ‘dependant’ includes a spouse, civil partner, child or parent of the employee who lives in the same household as the employee or reasonably relies on the employee to provide or arrange care. 

A ‘long-term care need’ is:

  • A physical or mental illness or injury that requires or is likely to require care for more than three months.
  • A disability for the purposes of the Equality Act 2010.
  • A requirement for care because of old age.

The employee may take one week’s unpaid leave in each rolling 12-month period.   The leave may be taken in either individual days or half days, up to a maximum of one week. 

The employee must give notice which is either twice as many days as the period of leave required, or three days, whichever is greater.  So, an employee requesting two days’ leave must give four days’ notice.  Notice must be in full days.  This notice does not need to be in writing and the employer cannot require evidence before granting the leave.

An employer cannot decline a request, but can postpone the leave where the following applies:

  • The employer reasonably considers that the operation of the business would be unduly disrupted if it allowed the leave when requested.
  • The employer allows the employee to take a period of leave of the same duration within a month of the period initially requested.
  • The employer gives the employee a written notice within seven days of the request, setting out reason for the postponement and the agreed dates on which the leave can be taken.

During the leave, the employee’s contract of employment continues, except in relation to pay.

Government guidance

The Government guidance sets out a brief overview of the right and practical examples.  These include:

  • A week is the employee’s usual working week.  If an employee usually works three days a week, they can take 3 days of carer’s leave.
  • If an employee needs to care for more than one person, they can only take one week of leave.  They cannot take a week of leave for each dependant.
  • If an employee’s working hours change each week, the employer should add the total number of hours worked in the last 12 months and divide that by 52 to calculate a week of leave.

ACAS guidance

The ACAS guidance includes further detail about certain aspects of the right to leave.  It gives examples of when carer’s leave could be used, including taking a disabled child to a hospital appointment or moving a parent who has dementia into a care home.

ACAS also reminds employers that they may choose to pay their employees for carer’s leave, although there is no obligation to do so.  It also recommends that employers should be flexible where possible.

Comment

Employees are protected from detriment and dismissal for taking or seeking to take carer’s leave. Employers should review and, if necessary, update their policies and handbooks to include details of this new right. 

Employees may also in some circumstances be entitled to other, separate, types of statutory leave, including time off for dependents or parental leave. 

23 April 2024

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©2024 SCRASE LAW LTD. THIS POST IS FOR GENERAL INFORMATION ONLY AND IS NOT ADVICE. YOU ARE RECOMMENDED TO SEEK PROFESSIONAL ADVICE BEFORE TAKING ANY ACTION ON THE BASIS OF THIS POST