Consultation on the new right to carer’s leave
On the 16 March 2020 the government opened a consultation on its proposal to give employees who are unpaid carers an extra week’s leave each year to provide unpaid care.
The term ‘carer’ refers to "a person providing unpaid care to family members, friends, neighbours, or others because of long-term physical or mental health, disability or problems related to old age".
Proposed new right
The aim of carer’s leave is to allow employees to provide care within their normal working hours. It is in addition to existing employment rights, such as the right to take unpaid time off to deal with emergencies involving dependants.
Relationship with the person being cared for
The government proposes that right should be available where the employee is caring for their spouse or civil partner, child, parent, someone living in the same household or anyone else who reasonably relies on them for care. It asks whether there any other caring relationships that should be included.
The government proposes carer’s leave should be restricted to those caring for individuals with physical or mental health problems, disability or issues related to old age where the care need is likely to last for a long period of time, such as six months or a year.
It is also considering whether certain care needs should qualify automatically, irrespective of duration, such as cancer, HIV and Multiple Sclerosis and whether carer’s leave should automatically apply in cases of terminal illness.
Qualifying period of employment
Currently, the government does not propose any qualifying period of service for carer's leave and seeks views on this.
What leave can be taken for
The consultation seeks view on the following reasons for taking the leave:
- Providing personal support, for example keeping the person company
- Providing practical support, for example making meals, doing shopping and other household tasks
- Support with official and financial matters, for example paying bills and collecting pensions and other official paperwork
- Providing personal and medical care, for example giving medication and collecting prescriptions, and washing and dressing
The government asks whether accompanying someone to appointments should be included in this.
The government considers that the following should not be covered by the new right:
- Childcare, other than where the child falls into the above conditions for needing care
- Supporting recovery, for example where someone is recovering from an operation for a short period of time.
The government is proposing employees would be able to self-certify their eligibility for carer’s leave and asks how often they should be required to do so.
How the leave can be taken
The consultation confirms anyone caring for more than one person will only be entitled to one week’s leave. Its seeks views on whether the leave should be taken as a single block or available to take as individual days.
Requesting the leave
The consultation recognises that employers need to plan ahead and so seeks views on whether employees should be required to give notice and what would be a reasonable period of notice to give.
As with other types of leave, the government proposes employees should have the right not to be subjected to a detriment for taking leave and that a dismissal should be automatically unfair if the reason or principal reason for dismissal is that the employee has taken or sought to take carer’s leave. An employee would also be able to bring a claim if their employer unreasonably refuses to allow them to take career’s leave.
Responses to the consultation are required by 3 August 2020.
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