Carers Leave

The government has responded to its consultation on carers leave and confirmed that it will introduce an entitlement to carer’s leave as a day one right for employees.

The entitlement will be to take up to one week (5 working days) of unpaid leave per year. It will be available to be taken flexibly, either in individual days or half days, or in a block of one week.

Who Can Take Carers Leave?

The new entitlement to statutory carers leave will rely on the carers relationship with the person being cared for, which should broadly follow the definition of dependant used in the right to time off for dependants – a spouse, civil partner, child, parent, a person who lives in the same household as the employee (other than by reason of them being their employee, tenant, lodger, or boarder) or a person who reasonably relies on the employee for care.

This last relationship mentioned is critical for employees as a catch-all provision. The consultation highlighted that the leave should be available to those caring for girlfriends, boyfriends, siblings, grandparents, and so on. The inclusion of “a person who reasonably relies on the employee for care” is sufficiently broad to include such relationships.

The leave will be a “day one” right, meaning there is no minimum service requirement to take advantage of it.

What Can Carers Leave Be Used For?

Employees will be able to take advantage of the carer’s leave entitlement to “provide care or make arrangements for the provision of care for a dependant who requires long-term care”.

‘Long-term care need’ will be defined as a long-term illness or injury (physical or mental), a disability as defined under the Equality Act 2010, or issues related to old age. There will be limited exemptions from the requirement for long-term care, for example in the case of terminal illness.

The government has been careful to ensure there is a broad definition of what the leave might be used for, however, they also made clear that the objective of carer’s leave is primarily to support those providing care for someone with a “long-term care need” – a focus which is central to the introduction of the entitlement. This is because it is usually the impact of prolonged and ongoing care needs that makes it difficult for carers to balance their work with their caring responsibilities.

This government’s approach clearly stems from its belief, illustrated during the consultation, that other existing types of leave are more appropriate for employees to take when dealing with “short-term care needs”. For example, in emergency situations, the right to time off for dependants provides employees with an entitlement to take time off work without notice. Further, where a short-term care need is foreseeable, annual leave can be taken – such as to support someone who does not usually require care as they recover from a broken arm or minor operation.

Importantly, there is no evidence or certification requirement to support a request for carer’s leave. The government says that if an employee makes a false application to use the leave, this should be dealt with in the same way as any other disciplinary matter. Both employers and employees may be relieved by this, given the challenges of managing sensitive personal and medical information relating to a third party.

It is also clear that the government does not envisage that carer’s leave will add to or amend any leave entitlements currently in place for parents (eg, parental leave). The government says that changes to those leave entitlements will be considered separately in the future.

How Can Carer’s Leave Be Taken?

Carer’s leave can be taken flexibly either as full days or half days, up to a block of one week per year. It was clear from the consultation that this approach was regarded as the most advantageous for carers.

Notice requirements will apply, in line with the purpose of the leave being to assist those with planned-for caring responsibilities. These will mirror the requirements for annual leave – the employee must give notice that is twice the length of the time being requested as leave, plus one day. Employers will be able to postpone, but not deny, the leave request for carer’s leave. The grounds on which they can do so will be strictly limited to where the employer considers that the operation of their business would be unduly disrupted. In that case, the employer would need to give a counter-notice.

What Evidence Is Required For Carers Leave?

Evidence of entitlement to carer’s leave will be via self-certification, with a false application being dealt with in the same way as a claim for false sickness absence or any other disciplinary matter.

Dismissal For Taking Carers Leave Will Be Automatically Unfair

As with other statutory leave entitlements, dismissal of an employee for a reason connected with their taking carer’s leave will be automatically unfair.

When Will Carers Leave Be Introduced?

The government states in its response to the consultation that legislation to introduce carer’s leave as a day one statutory employment right will be brought forward when parliamentary time allows.

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Carers Leave