Carer’s Rights Day – Three Fast Facts for Employers

Carer’s Rights Day – Three Fast Facts for Employers

This year Carer’s Rights Day is being held on 25th November, it’s intended to raise awareness of the needs of unpaid carers, their rights and where they can turn for help and support. As many unpaid carers are also employees, it’s helpful for employers to consider how such employees can be supported in the workplace, part of this is to be aware of some of the workplace rights employees have when seeking to balance their caring and work responsibilities.

Three Fast Facts

Whilst the government has confirmed that a new right to carers leave will be introduced for unpaid carers ( please see our earlier Legal Update here ), we don’t yet know when this will be brought in. For now, employees who are seeking to balance their work and caring responsibilities will need to rely on general employment law rights, three of those that employers may encounter include:

1. Dependent care leave

Dependent care leave gives employees the right to take a reasonable amount of time off work where it’s necessary in order to deal with certain emergencies involving their dependants. It’s a day one right that’s available to all employees and covers some of the emergency situations carers may face. These are where it is necessary to:

  • provide assistance when a dependant falls ill, gives birth, is injured or assaulted;
  • make arrangements for the provision of care for a dependant who is ill or injured
  • take action required in consequence of the death of a dependant;
  • deal with the unexpected disruption, termination or breakdown of arrangements for the care of a dependant; and/or
  • deal with an unexpected incident involving their child while at school or another educational establishment that is responsible for them.

In most cases, for the purposes of taking dependent care leave, a dependant is defined as an employee’s spouse, civil partner, parent, child or a person who lives in the same household as the employee (but who is not their tenant, lodger, boarder or someone employed by them). A dependant can include anyone who reasonably relies on the employee in some circumstances.

There is no minimum length of service required for an employee to be able to take dependent care leave. Employees don’t need to give advance notice that they will be taking time off, but they should follow the usual absence reporting procedure if it’s possible for them to do so.

Whilst dependent care leave can be unpaid, some employers do pay for this time off so you should check your contracts and  past practice to identify what the position is in your organisation.

2. The right to request flexible working

Some employees who have caring responsibilities may find themselves needing or wishing to make changes to their working hours or working location (such as working from home) to help them balance their working life and caring responsibilities. It’s important to bear in mind that employees who have at least 26 weeks service have the statutory right to request flexible working – this can be for any reason. Whilst changes, if they can be accommodated, are usually made on a permanent basis an employee can request that changes are made for a time limited period, this could for example be to help them care for someone with a terminal illness. Introductory information regarding flexible working generally can be found in our previous Legal Update here.

If you receive a flexible working request in your organisation, please contact Kingfisher Professional Services Ltd for advice on the facts of your situation before taking action.

3. Parental leave

Parental leave gives qualifying parents the right to take time off to care for a child. This can be helpful for some employees as ‘time off to care for a child’ is given a fairly wide meaning, for example it can cover things such as accompanying a child during a stay in hospital, spending more time with them or helping a child to get used to new childcare arrangements. It’s helpful to know that:

  • To be able to take parental leave employees must have one years’ continuity of service and have or expect to have parental responsibility for the child (such as biological or adoptive parents)
  • The entitlement is to a maximum of 18 weeks parental leave per parent for each child. Entitlement to parental leave can be exercised up until a child’s 18th birthday
  • Employees cannot take more than four weeks parental leave per qualifying child per year. Parental leave must be taken in multiples of weeks unless the employer agrees otherwise or the employee is caring for a child who is in receipt of disability living allowance or personal independence payment in which case parental leave can be taken as single days
  • Employees will usually need to give 21 days’ notice of their intention to take a period of parental leave
  • Parental leave is unpaid unless the employer has given employees better rights under their contract of employment or through past practice

Whilst employers can in certain circumstances postpone an employee’s requested parental leave, this is not something that should be done lightly. Advice should always be sought on the facts of the case before taking action

If you have an employment law matter you would like assistance with, please do not hesitate to contact Kingfisher Professional Services Ltd as we are happy to help.