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Unpaid carer’s leave

The Carer’s Leave Act 2023 will become law on 6 April 2024

Employees who have caring responsibilities will be able to take up to five days of unpaid Carer’s Leave from 6 April 2024.

The landmark Carer’s Leave Act will:

  • introduce a new entitlement of five days unpaid leave per year for employees to give or arrange care for a dependent with a long-term care need
  • be available from the first day of employment
  • allow employees to take the leave flexibly for planned and foreseen caring commitment
  • protect employees from dismissal or any detriment because of having taken time off.

The person needing care does not have to be a family member and can be anyone who relies on them for care. There is no requirement to provide evidence about the needs of the person you care for.

How long employees can take

The regulations set out that employees can take Carer’s Leave in full or half days, or in a whole block of five days, and must give advance notice that is twice the length of time that needs to be taken.

Employees can take up to one week of leave every 12 months. A ‘week’ means the length of time they usually work over 7 days. For example, if someone usually works 3 days a week, they can take 3 days of carer’s leave.

They can either take a whole week off or take individual days or half days throughout the year.

If an employee needs to care for more than one person, they cannot take a week of carer’s leave for each dependant. They can only take one week every 12 months. They can use the week of leave on more than one dependant.

If an employee is a parent, they can take up to 18 weeks’ leave to look after their child. This is separate to carer’s leave.

How to take carer’s leave

Employees need to give their employer notice before they want their leave to start. If the request is for half a day or a day, the notice period must be at least 3 days.

If the request is for more than one day, the notice period must be at least twice as long as the requested leave. For example, if the request is for 2 days, the notice period must be at least 4 days.

The notice period needs to be in full days, even if the request includes half day amounts.

The request does not have to be in writing.

If you need to look after someone in an emergency, you can take time off for this without giving a notice period. 

When employers can delay carer’s leave

Employers cannot refuse a carer’s leave request but can ask the employee to take it at a different time. They can only do this if the employee’s absence would cause serious disruption to the organisation.

If they delay it, the employer must:

  • agree another date within one month of the requested date for the leave
  • put the reason for the delay and new date in writing to the employee within 7 days of the original request, and before the requested start date of the leave.

Act introduced by Scottish MP

Wendy Chamberlain MP, who introduced the Carer’s Leave Act in the House of Commons, said: “Becoming a carer is something that can happen to any one of us. It can take many forms: from day-to-day physical caring, making medical appointments or doing the shopping for a housebound elderly neighbour. Caring or being cared for is something that almost everyone will experience at some point in their life.

“The work unpaid carers do is unequivocally vital yet is it extremely underappreciated. This hard work should be better recognised which is a key reason why I led the Carer’s Leave Act through Parliament.

“The Act gives carers up to 5 days of unpaid leave a year. Although I would like to see this doubled to 10 days and paid, it is a great start in beginning the process for improving carer’s rights.

“I would like to deeply thank Carers UK with whom I worked closely with throughout the process of getting this bill passed. It would not have been possible without their support.

“I look forward to the new law coming into force on the 6th April and hope that it will give millions of unpaid carers a little more flexibility with their time. Carers across North East Fife told me they had given up work due to caring responsibilities. I hope this Act will help encourage some of those people to find a way back to work.”

Help for employers

Carers UK, which has led the campaign for those juggling paid work and unpaid care for loved ones to receive a legal right to Carer’s Leave, is offering a paid-for package of support for employers who need advice about what the Carer’s Leave Act will mean for them.