In March this year the government launched a consultation on Carers Leave, which closed on August 3rd with the outcome now awaiting publication.
The government is proposing to give the UK’s estimated five million and rising, unpaid carers the right to take one week of unpaid leave per year, to provide care for a family member or other dependant who has a longer term or otherwise significant care need with the aim of the consultation being to gather opinion and gain information on how best to design the entitlement.
At present, those with caring responsibilities can use the following statutory entitlements to take time away from work:
- Statutory right to request flexible working, where employees can request a change to their hours, working patterns or working from home. The Government is committed to bring forward further proposals to make flexible working the default.
- Statutory leave (annual leave), which allows most workers 5.6 weeks’ paid holiday per year.
- The right to time off for dependants, which allows employees a reasonable amount of time off for emergencies involving a dependant.
- Unpaid parental leave, which allows parents up to four weeks of unpaid leave each year to spend time with their child.
The government says Carers Leave will allow further opportunity to take time out of work in situations when the need for care is particularly intense or to manage day-to-day needs.
The leave will be restricted to those caring for individuals with physical or mental health problems, disability or issues related to old age and where the care need is likely to last for a longer period of time such as six months or a year.
What will not be within the scope of the leave is:
- Childcare, other than where the child meets the general conditions for care need. For example, if the child has a condition which lasts for more than six months, a disability or a terminal illness their carer would qualify for the leave. Other, more general childcare is provided for by parental leave entitlements.
- Supporting recovery, such as caring for a person who is usually able to live independently but needs support for a limited time period such as recovery after a broken arm or minor operation. Emergencies involving a dependant is provided for by the right to time off for dependants, and annual leave can be used where the short-term care need is foreseeable.
The consultation has asked for input on such things as eligibility, definitions, what evidence should be provided to employers, to ensure the leave is used for its intended purpose and a number of employment specialists and caring organisations have published their responses to the proposals. No date has yet been given by the government for the outcome.