The Carers Leave Bill will amend the Employment Rights Act 1996 and introduce an annual entitlement to one week’s unpaid leave to care for a dependent with a long term care need from the first day of employment. It is due to come into effect this year.
This change follows reports that around 2 million people that are currently providing unpaid care are having to balance work alongside their caring responsibilities, many of whom are having to resort to taking other forms of leave to ensure they can provide or arrange the necessary care for their dependents.
Currently, parents have a right to a total of 18 weeks of unpaid parental leave for each child up to the age of 18. However there is no statutory right to any other unpaid leave to care for other dependants.
Employees who take advantage of their right to carers leave will be protected from termination or other negative consequences by the same employment protections that apply to other types of family-related leave. The technicalities of obtaining and taking such leave are not currently clear and it may mean that it is left to the employer’s discretion to determine a number of factors including whether the week could be divided into days, the rules around providing notice to the employer, and the employer's right to delay the leave should the request interfere with its business needs.
As an employer, it is important to support your employees with their concerns and family commitments and try and understand why they need to take leave and which type of family friendly leave is appropriate for them. If you are an individual wishing to understand your rights to take a period of family friendly leave and want advice on the types of leave you may be eligible for, or if you are an employer needing support with requests for such leave, please contact our employment team for more information.