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Understanding the Right to Carers Leave: A Guide for Employers and Employees

Understanding the Right to Carers Leave: A Guide for Employers and Employees

The new Carers’ Leave Act, came into force on 6 April 2024, giving additional rights to at least two million employees who have caring responsibilities outside of work.

Previously, there has been no statutory rights for employees to take leave to carry out caring responsibilities and employees have had to use other leave types to assist those in need of care.

The Right to Carers Leave Act is a legislative measure aimed at providing support and protection for employees who are caregivers. It means that anyone who is legally classed as an employee can take time off to help a dependant who needs long-term care from day 1 of their employment.

Why Was it Needed?

The need for the Right to Carers Leave Act arises from the challenges faced by caregivers in balancing their caregiving responsibilities with work commitments. Many caregivers often find themselves torn between caring for a loved one and fulfilling their duties as an employee, leading to stress, burnout, and financial strain. Before this legislation, caregivers had limited options for taking time off work to attend to their caregiving responsibilities, often resorting to using their annual leave or taking unpaid leave. The Right to Carers Leave Act addresses these challenges by providing caregivers with a formal entitlement to take time off work for caregiving purposes without fear of repercussions from their employer.

What Does it Mean for Employers?

For employers, compliance with the Right to Carers Leave Act means recognising and respecting the rights of employees who are caregivers. Employers are legally obligated to grant eligible employees unpaid leave for a specified period to provide full-time care and support to a relevant person in need.

During the caregiver's absence, employers must ensure that their job is protected, meaning they should be able to return to their job or a similar position with the same terms and conditions upon their return. Employers are also required to maintain confidentiality regarding the employee's caregiving situation and refrain from discriminating against employees who may require Carers Leave.

What Does it Mean for Employees?

For employees, the Right to Carers Leave Act provides much-needed support and flexibility in managing their caregiving responsibilities. Employees can take up to 1 week of carer's leave every 12 months.

They can choose to take leave as:

·         half days – this is the minimum they can take

·         full days

·         a whole week

This allows caregivers to prioritise their family responsibilities without having to sacrifice their job or face financial hardship. Additionally, employees can feel confident that their job will be protected while they are on carers leave, providing them with peace of mind during a challenging time.

The Right to Carers Leave Act represents a milestone in recognising and supporting the needs of caregivers in the workplace. By providing a legal framework for carers to take unpaid leave, the legislation aims to alleviate the burden on employees who are juggling work and caregiving responsibilities. It is thought that as well as having positive impacts on the physical, emotional and financial wellbeing of caregivers it will also help businesses retain talent.

Find out more about this new legislation here.