Government Introduces New Legislation For Carers
The government will introduce a new statutory right of up to one week of unpaid leave for carers. This legislation resulted from the 2020 consultation, which recognised the challenge of juggling work and caring responsibilities.
Reasoning behind the legislation
The Conservative party addressed several workplace inequalities in its 2019 election manifesto. From incorporating new rights regarding the concept of flexible working to a proposal to extend leave entitlement to unpaid carers, they discussed various policies that UK employment law could include.
The coronavirus pandemic’s impact on many individuals and families, coupled with the UK’s ageing population, has highlighted the necessity of addressing this inequality. While introducing this new statutory right could be costly for businesses, the government views this intervention as essential to ensure unpaid carers have full access to the labour market. The costs to businesses are worth the potential benefits, such as increased employee loyalty and satisfaction the policy may bring. This should reduce staff turnover and increase productivity which will have long term cost-effective benefits for businesses.
The intention is that unpaid carers could utilise their carer’s leave to provide the care themselves or make arrangements to provide care for a dependant.
Employees who have a partner, civil partner, spouse, parent, child or household member who relies on them for care will be eligible to take carer’s leave. They can exercise carer’s leave from their first day of employment.
The dependent must have a long-term care need. This will be defined in the new legislation as a disability as defined in the Equality Act 2020, a long-term illness or injury, or issues relating to old age. Some limited exceptions will be accepted, such as situations where the person being cared for is terminally ill.
Exercising the right to statutory carer’s leave
Employees will be able to ‘self-certify’ their eligibility to take carer’s leave. If employees abuse the system, employers can deal with this in the same way as any disciplinary matter.
In the drive towards flexible working, employees will be able to take statutory carer’s leave in half days, individual days or a one-week block. The notice period must be twice the length of the leave plus one day to take it.
Employers cannot deny a carer’s leave request but can request to postpone it on limited grounds. For example, if they believe it will disproportionately affect their business operation.
It will be automatically unfair to dismiss an employee due to or in connection with them exercising the legislation.
What this means for workplace equality
Introducing the right for employees to claim carer’s leave is part of the government’s strategy to address workplace inequalities.
The government hopes to encourage more unpaid carers to enter or remain in the workforce by giving them the option of taking leave. As the UK deals with an ageing population and staff shortages, this option may become essential.
Implementation of the new legislation
The government says it will introduce the right to carer’s leave as a day 1 statutory employment right when parliamentary time allows. In light of these upcoming changes, employers should undertake necessary preparations in amending or updating their written policies.
Stone Rowe Brewer LLP provides high-quality legal services for individuals and businesses. Our employment lawyers are practical, proactive and user friendly. If you want to learn more about the new statutory right for carer’s leave or have any general employment law queries, please call us on 020 8891 6141.