The annual entitlement to one week of unpaid carer’s leave is available to employees with no waiting period. Dependents for whom the employee can take carer’s leave include a spouse or civil partner, parent or child of the employee, or someone who lives in the household or relies upon the employee for care. Additionally, eligible dependents must:
- Require long-term care, considered currently to last longer than three months because of a mental or physical illness or injury,
- Require care because of old age or have a disability under the Equality Act of 2010.
The week of unpaid leave may be taken in a single block or in individual day or half-day increments, subject to the provision of a notice. Employees must give the employer notice of the days needed and the dependent requiring care. Notice must be provided at the greater of:
- three days before the start of the requested leave, or
- a certain number of days equal to twice the number of days requested.
Employers may waive the advance notice requirement at their own discretion. Employers are not allowed to request evidence of their employees’ entitlement to take this leave.
Employers are prohibited from declining unpaid carer’s leave requests, but where they reasonably consider that the operation of the business would be unduly disrupted during the requested timeframe, they may propose alternative dates, to begin not more than one month after the requested date. The alternative date(s) must be received by the employee in writing within seven days of their request or before the day or half day requested.
Employers are also prohibited from dismissing or demoting employees who decide to use this new benefit.
Employers should watch for the implementation of the Draft Regulations and start reviewing and updating their internal leave policies. Employers who already provide their employees with this benefit will want to ensure that what they provide minimally match the above provisions. In addition, employers may want to train managers about this new entitlement and the protections offered to employees whotake this leave.