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What is the UK Carers Leave Act and how will it help caregivers?

Every step in law that recognises the needs of caregivers is a step in the right direction. Sometimes they are small steps, and they arrive in law a long time after they’ve been announced.

Such is the case with the Carers Leave Act 2023. It’s a definite positive, but it’s not huge, and it’s not happening quite yet.

What is the Carers Leave Act?

The Carers Leave Act 2023 is a UK law that gives employees the right to take unpaid leave to care for a dependant with a long-term care need. The law was passed in May 2023 and will come into effect in April 2024. The aim is to give employees greater flexibility in how they manage their work and caring commitments.

How does it work?

The plan seems to be that for short-term care needs, employees continue to use annual leave or similar to manage demands on their time.

This is more about planning for the long term. A long-term care need is likely to be a condition that is predicted to last for at least 12 months or is terminal.

How exactly the regulations will be applied has not yet been clarified. It is expected that the week’s leave can be taken as full and half-days, although this has not yet been stated.

Employees should talk to their employers to arrange their time off when they need it.

A great positive is that this right comes into force from the first day of employment.

Who is eligible?

If you are an employee who wants to take advantage of this new leave, you will need to be providing or arranging care for a dependant who has a ‘long-term care need’.

That dependant can be a spouse, civil partner, child, parent, or someone who lives in the same household as you and relies on you for care.

What does this mean for employees?

As the employee, you would be entitled to a week’s unpaid leave during any period of 12 months. The leave can be taken in one go or in multiple blocks. Employees will not be required to provide evidence of how they spend the leave, or on whom.

We don’t yet know the detail of how much notice you will need to give, although suggestions include twice the length of the leave requested, or up to 14 days in advance.

The leave can be taken in addition to other statutory leave, such as maternity leave and parental leave.

You are still likely to be entitled to benefits, such as sick pay and holiday pay, during the leave.

What does this mean for employers?

The employer cannot refuse carers leave, but they may ask you to postpone the leave if it would cause significant disruption to the business. Again, we need to wait to see the detail on this, but the threat of a potential tribunal if the employer refuses leave looms large.

The employer must also allow you to return to their job after the leave without any detriment.

By the time the law is implemented, it is likely that employers will have taken time to consider who they will update policies to cover the regulations, introduce record-keeping systems to track time taken as leave, create a self-certification system for employees to declare themselves eligible for the leave, and educate managers in the new rules.

While this is all about unpaid leave, some employers may consider paying employees during the leave anyway, especially if they have staff that they wish to retain who have caring responsibilities.

Find out more

CarersUK, a UK organisation supporting caregivers or carers providing unpaid support to family and friends, has further information about how the new law will affect organisations and how to plan for the changes.

This article was compiled in September 2023. Guidelines and regulations may change before or after the law comes into effect, so it is worth keeping an eye on updates and discussing the situation with your employer for the latest understanding. 


Photo by Jessica Lewis on Unsplash



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