What does the Carer’s Leave Act 2023 mean for businesses?

In just over a month’s time, over two million employees will benefit from new rights outlined in the Carer’s Leave Act. The new law, supporting unpaid carers to remain in work alongside their caring responsibilities, will come into force on 6th April 2024.

What is an unpaid carer?

An unpaid carer is anyone who cares for someone who is ill, disabled, older, has mental health concerns or is experiencing addiction and is not paid by a company or local authority to do this. Primarily, this will be a family member or friend.

The Act will give employees in Great Britain with a long-term unpaid caring responsibility the right to take up to five days of unpaid carer’s leave per year, prompting employers to think about those with caring roles in the workforce, and for many, to create carer-related policies for the first time.

What are the details of the Carer’s Leave Act?

Employees taking carer’s leave will have the same employment protections associated with other forms of family leave, including protection from unfair dismissal or detriment as a result of taking this leave.

The right to carer’s leave will be available for employees from day one of their employment, allowing them to take leave for planned caring responsibilities. Regulations set out that employees can take carer’s leave in full or half days, or in a whole block of up to five days, and must give advance notice that is twice the length of time that needs to be taken. Requests do not need to be specified in writing, but employees can do this if they wish to.

What are the positives for employers and employees?

Balancing work and care can be a real struggle – with many carers experiencing tiredness, stress and finding it a challenge to manage their own physical and mental health.

On average, 600 people a day leave work to care. Support to ensure they remain in work brings increased productivity for employers, improving retention rates and reducing recruitment costs. It’s estimated that when employers have carer support within the workplace, this saves UK companies up to £4.8 billion a year in unplanned absences and a further £3.4 billion in improved retention.  With a tight labour market, not only does retention of employees within key markets remain critical, positive approaches towards employees who are carers also contribute to being seen as an employer of choice.

Having a supportive employer and the ability to take time off work to care can help to mitigate the pressures unpaid carers face, improving finances and employment prospects for people both in the short and longer term.

A staggering 317,000 directors, managers, and senior staff are unpaid carers juggling work and care. This is an issue faced by business throughout the whole organisation from the Board to the most junior member of staff. It is more likely to affect women and those over the age of 50, although anyone can be an unpaid carer.

How can businesses get ahead of the curve?

Carers UK will be providing a stand-alone set of resources to support employers with the implementation of the Carer’s Leave Act, which are free for members of our business forum Employers for Carers (EfC) members as part of their membership.

Many people don’t see themselves as carers and it takes them an average of two years to acknowledge their role as a carer so raising awareness of support available is often key. Employers don’t need to wait until April to begin providing training for managers and adjusting work-based policies with carers in mind.

Whilst Carers UK is excited to see new rights for working carers coming in, we also know that paid carer’s leave makes an even bigger difference, particularly for employees on lower incomes.  More employers are moving towards paid carer’s leave, 8% of unpaid carers in work in our 2023 State of Caring survey said that their employer was bringing in paid carer’s leave.  For those who already have this in place, it has simultaneously shown to improve staff wellbeing and make their organisation attractive to new talent.

About the author

Helen Walker

Chief Executive at Carers UK

Helen joined Carers UK in December 2018, from the national volunteering charity TimeBank where she was Chief Executive for ten years. Since joining Carers UK she has focussed on ensuring the financial stability and growth of the charity in order to launch our ambitious new strategy, Vision 2025, culminating in our 60th anniversary in 2025. Helen has been appointed to represent carers on the NHS Assembly, as well as the National Institute for Health Research, School for Social Care Research Advisory Board at the LSE.

Her extensive leadership experience and sector knowledge saw her create a well-respected and successful brand at TimeBank. Previously, Helen was Director of Fundraising at the military charity SSAFA and has worked in the voluntary sector for over 25 years. Brought up on the Isle of Man, she studied for a degree and M.Phil at the London School of Economics.

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