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Everything you need to know about the Carer’s Leave Act

As of last week, unpaid carers can now take time off work without worrying about fatal consequences. However, the new legislation has provoked a range of industry responses. 

Rolled out from the 6th April 2024, the new act will enable unpaid carers to ask for up to five days leave from their employer – with it also protecting them from dismissal.

woman standing next to woman riding wheelchair

Under the new legislation, employees can take unpaid leave in full or half days, or in a whole block of five days, and must give advance notice that is twice the length of time that needs to be taken.

The leave can be used to take care of someone who has a disability, needs care due to old age, or has a long-term illness of more than three months.

The director of policy at Carers UK, the organisation that led the campaign which saw Carer’s Leave be made a legal right, Emily Holzhausen OBE, said: ‘For the first-time employers will have to think about unpaid carers in their workforce.

‘This is incredibly important because 600 people a day give up work because they’re unable to juggle work and care, so it’s going to help people to manage their caring lives as well as stay in work.’

However, other social care experts have voiced their opinion on the new act, and they aren’t as positive as Ms Holshausen’s.

Will Donnelly, co-founder of Lottie, has claimed that although the new act is a step in the right direction, he has said that carers will still be left facing with severe financial concerns.

‘The Carer’s Leave Act should only be the first step in giving informal carers across the country the recognition and support they need,’ Will said. ‘With an ageing population, access to appropriate eldercare is one of the biggest challenges we’re facing as a society.’

Research from Lottie, a free service that helps individuals in the UK find the best care homes, has revealed that employees across the UK juggling eldercare alongside full-time work are being left out of pocket by an average of £217 each month and £2,613 per year.

close-up photo of assorted coins

Against this backdrop, Kerry Hudson, personal injury, and employment solicitor at Brindley Twist Tafft & James (BTTJ), claimed that the new legislation will be particularly beneficial for employees who felt vulnerable when asking for time off to provide care.

Kerry said: ‘I am sure there are many employees who have the worry of juggling jobs and the responsibility of caring for someone. The new legislation acknowledges that there is a need to help those employees. Importantly if an employee needs that leave, the legislation is designed to give them protection from being dismissed or suffering detriment simply because they have exercised that right.

‘If an employee previously felt vulnerable asking for time to help someone for whom they had caring responsibilities, the introduction of this legislation hopefully gives them new comfort affording them new statutory rights and protection.’

In addition to new leave requirements being rolled out for unpaid carers, as of 6th April 2024 service providers carrying out regulated activities are required to facilitate visits for service users unless there are exceptional circumstances as to why it can’t happen.  

Mathieu Culverhouse, public law and human rights lawyer at Irwin Mitchell, has said that since the Covid-19 pandemic various care providers have begun to facilitate visits again, though ‘there are some which have kept the strict restrictions of Covid in place, to the determent of many.’

However, Mathieu explains that the Health and Social Care Act 2008 (Regulated Activities) (Amendment) Regulations 2023 will now allow for the following:

  • Where a service user is having an overnight stay in a care home, hospital or hospice, they must be facilitated to receive visitors
  • If someone is living in a care home, a service user cannot be discouraged from taking visits outside of the care home setting
  • Where attending a hospital or hospice appointment which isn’t overnight, they should be enabled to be accompanied by a family member, friend or person otherwise providing support to the service user

Mathieu said: ‘Providers should take all action necessary and proportionate, considering any care or treatment plan in place for the service user and involving the service user, family members and friends in any planning. 

‘Consequently, providers shouldn’t act without the consent of the service user. Additionally, if the service user lacks capacity, action shouldn’t be taken which isn’t in their best interests. Any health and welfare attorney or deputy should be involved in any discussions.’

Image: Dominik Lange and Josh Appel

More on this topic:

Shortage of health and care services damaging unpaid carers’ health

Almost half of unpaid carers not getting enough support, survey shows


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