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Two new pieces of guidance for employers on the new right to carer’s leave 

From 6 April 2024, employees acquired a new Day 1 right to take at least one week’s unpaid carer’s leave per year to provide or arrange care for a dependant who has a long-term care need.   To accompany this change, two new pieces of guidance for employers have been published.

A new statutory right to carer’s leave came into force on 6 April 2024.  You can read more about the new right in our detailed briefing here.  We also discussed carer’s leave in our recent webinar here.  

To coincide with the introduction of the new right, both the Government and Acas have published new guidance for employers. 

The Government’s guidance provides a basic introduction to how carer’s leave works.  It covers:

  • who is entitled to take carer’s leave;
  • how much carer’s leave employees may take;
  • how much notice must be given before taking carer’s leave; and 
  • when employer’s may delay a period of carer’s leave.

The Acas guidance covers the same matters, in some cases in a little more depth.  For example, when discussing entitlement to carer’s leave, the guidance explains who counts as a “dependant” for the purposes of the new right.  It also provides some examples of what carer’s leave may be used for.  This is helpful as the law simply states that the leave may be taken in order to give or arrange care for a dependant but is silent on what this means in practice.  Acas suggests that this may include things like:

  • taking a disabled child to a hospital appointment;
  • moving a parent who has dementia into a care home; 
  • accompanying a housebound dependant on a day trip; or
  • providing meals and company for an elderly neighbour while their main carer is away.

It is important to remember that this list is not exhaustive, and other activities may qualify, for example, taking a dependant to rehabilitation or counselling sessions, or attending relevant meetings with Social Services.

The Acas guidance also addresses the question of pay for carer’s leave.  Although the right is to unpaid leave, the guidance highlights that some employers may elect to offer paid leave.  For example, the law firm Kingsley Napley hasrecently announced that it would offer staff one week’s fully paid carer’s leave.  Employees are advised to check their employment contracts or their employer’s policy (where there is one) to find out what is offered in this respect. Alternatively, they should speak to their employer.

In terms of giving notice to take carer’s leave, the Acas guidance encourages employers to be as flexible as possible, noting that employees might need to take time at short notice on occasion.  It should also be remembered that employees who qualify for carer’s leave may also qualify for emergency time off for dependants, which may be taken without advance notice in appropriate cases.

The Acas guidance also sets out employees’ rights when taking carer’s leave, namely the right to return to the same job on the same terms and conditions, and protection from detriment or dismissal because of something related to carer’s leave.  For example, if an employee had their hours reduced, or if they were overlooked for training, promotions or development opportunities because of something related to carer’s leave, this would amount to an unlawful detriment.

What are the next steps for employers?

With carer’s leave now in force, employers should ensure that they have considered their position on carer’s leave (e.g. will the amount of leave be enhanced, and will it be paid?) and have a staff-facing policy in place.   Further, line managers should be educated about the new right.  A good starting point would be to ask them to read the Acas guidance, as well as any staff-facing policy.  Consideration should also be given to addressing carer’s leave rights in training for new line managers.   As well as understanding the framework for taking the leave, it is important for managers to be aware of the protections against detriment and dismissal, and guard against any treatment which could give rise to legal claims. 

BDBF is a law firm based at Bank in the City of London specialising in employment law.  If you would like to discuss any issues relating to the content of this article, please contact Principal Knowledge Lawyer Amanda Steadman (amandasteadman@bdbf.co.ukor your usual BDBF contact.

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