New right to unpaid carer’s leave for UK employees

In the government’s response to the carer’s leave consultation it confirms that it will introduce five days’ unpaid carer’s leave per year for employees. This will be a day one right that employees can take on a flexible basis to provide assistance to a dependant with long-term care needs. Some notice requirements will apply but employees will be able to self-certify that they are entitled to take leave. The right will be introduced when parliamentary time allows.

What happened

According to the government, approximately five million people in the UK provide unpaid support to an elderly or disabled relative or friend. Nearly half of those people juggle their caring responsibilities with paid employment. An aging population means that these numbers will continue to increase.

In its response to the carer’s leave consultation conducted in 2020, the government has confirmed its intention to introduce five days’ unpaid carer’s leave per year to help unpaid carers balance their work and caring responsibilities. Under the proposals employees will:

  • Be entitled to carer’s leave as a day one right;
  • Be able to take leave to provide care for a dependant with a long-term care need;
  • Have the ability to use leave flexibly, in periods of half or full days up to the five day maximum;
  • Need to give their employer the same amount of notice to take leave as they would have to give to take a period of statutory holiday (broadly twice as much notice as the period of leave requested);
  • Self-certify their entitlement to leave; and
  • Be protected against detrimental treatment or dismissal because they have taken or sought to take leave.

The definition of dependants will reflect the one already used in relation to the right to take unpaid time off to care for dependants. This includes someone’s spouse or civil partner, parents or children and others who reasonably rely on the employee for care. However, carer’s leave will only be available where the person to whom care is being provided has a long-term care need such as a long-term illness or injury, a disability or issues related to old age.

Next steps

Carer’s leave forms part of a package of new family friendly rights the government is intending to introduce. These include an expanded right to request flexible working, extended redundancy protection for pregnant workers and new parents and neonatal leave and pay. Carer’s leave will be introduced when parliamentary time allows, which looks unlikely to be before mid- to late 2022 at the earliest. 



Authored by Jo Broadbent and Stefan Martin.

Ed Bowyer
Stefan Martin


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