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Press Release - Support for working carers

17 May 2024

Support for working carers.

Caring for loved ones, friends and family members can have a significant impact on the lives of employees, particularly when it comes to career progression.

More than two in five unpaid carers are between 46 and 65 years old, with many of them trying to balance the demands of work and caring for a dependant. Recent changes in employment law now offer more support through the introduction of unpaid Carer’s Leave which is a first for the UK and has been introduced to support employees managing caregiving responsibilities alongside their work commitments.

In this feature, Align People HR highlights the recent changes in employment law that introduces unpaid Carer’s Leave as a new support mechanism for employees balancing work and caring responsibilities. This new legislation marks a significant step towards addressing the needs of employees who provide care to dependants outside of their professional lives.

The introduction of Carer’s leave in April 2024 is part of a broader shift towards accommodating diverse work-life balances. Carer’s leave can be requested from day one of employment and grants employees the right to unpaid time off work to provide or organise care for a dependant. This can include individuals with physical or mental health conditions requiring long-term care, those with disabilities defined by the Equality Act 2010, or elderly family members needing assistance. Carer’s Leave also encompasses care for non-family members who rely on the employee for support.

Employees can take up to one week of Carer’s Leave per 12 months, calculated based on their typical weekly working hours. The leave can be taken as a continuous week or as individual days or half-days throughout the year. If an employee cares for multiple dependants, they can allocate their week of leave as needed across those individuals.

For employees with irregular working patterns, the entitlement to Carer’s Leave is determined by the average number of hours worked per week over the preceding 12 months. If a new employee has a requirement to take Carer’s Leave in their first week of employment, their entitlement can be calculated based on the weekly hours they are expected to work.

Requests for Carer’s Leave do not need to be in writing, nor do employees need to provide evidence of their dependant's care needs. However, employees must give notice before taking leave, with the required notice period depending on the length of leave requested.

Employers facing operational disruptions due to an employee’s absence can suggest an alternative time for the leave, but they cannot refuse the request outright. If the leave is postponed, the employer must give a reason in writing within seven days and arrange an alternative date within one month.

Carer’s Leave supplements existing unpaid leave entitlements for employees with dependants such as ‘Time off for Dependants’ which allows unpaid time off in emergencies without notice and ‘Parental Leave’ for caring for children under 18.

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