Balancing Work and Care: Understanding the UK's Carer's Leave Act 2024

From the 6 April 2024 employees in the UK will have a new statutory right to one week of unpaid leave to care for a dependant with long-term needs. This right allows any employee to take time off to arrange or provide care for a dependant with long-term needs.

This includes spouses, children, parents, a person who lives in the same household as the employee, and anyone who depends on the employee for care. There is no minimum time you need to be employed to qualify for carer's leave  as it is a "day one" right. Just like other statutory leave, employers cannot penalise employees for taking it, and they are guaranteed to return to the same job they had before they took leave. 

The Entitlement  

The Act states that leave is available to employees who need to give or arrange care for a dependant who has the following:  

  • A disability as defined by the Equality Act 2010  

  • Care needs because of old age  

  • A physical or mental illness or injury where they need care for more than three months  

How does the leave work?  

The Carer’s Leave Act provides employees with a maximum of one week of leave per year regardless of the number of dependants they care for, and they can take the leave every twelve months. A week is the length of time they normally work over seven days, for example if an employee works five days they can take five days; if they work three days, they can take three pro-rata days of carer's leave in a year.  

The leave cannot be used for general childcare it must be used for a person who has a long-term health or disability related caring need. If the employee has more than one dependant who is in need of care the maximum is still one working week every twelve months.  

How can employers manage this?  

The first step is to update or implement policies establishing a process to apply for the leave. This will help manage requests and you should communicate this to your employees.  

If an employee is applying for carer’s leave, they do not have to provide evidence relating to the responsibilities or ask how they intend to use the leave due to data protection issues around handling sensitive medical or personal data.  

There is no obligation for employers to pay employees who are on carer’s leave as the entitlement is unpaid. However, they can choose to offer contractual pay.  

Employers should not include carer’s leave in absence triggers for disciplinary action; they should keep track of how much carer’s leave an employee takes to ensure they do not go over their entitlement. It is important that line managers receive some form of training on carer’s leave entitlements.  

Can employers refuse carer’s leave?  

Refusing a request to take carer’s leave can breach an employee’s statutory rights which could lead to costly tribunal claims. For example, there could be a risk of discrimination claims if the employee is placed at a detriment for needing to take carer’s leave. If you have grounds to believe that an employee is unreasonably requesting or taking carer’s leave you should meet with the employee to discuss your concerns. Following an investigation, you can then decide what action would be appropriate.  

Created by Ciara Burns
Ciara Burns
Ciara is the HR Consultant at FPM Group who writes and produces content on a wide range of topics such as HR best practices, employment law, recruitment, policies, and procedures.


Leave a Comment

Your comment