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Unpaid carer's leave - what does it mean for you?

New legislation was introduced on the 6 April that means if you’re a carer in work, you can now take up to a week of unpaid leave to give or arrange care for a ‘dependent’.

The dependent doesn’t need to be a family member, it can be anyone who relies on you for care.

Under the new legislation a dependent is defined as someone who has:

  • A physical or mental illness or injury that means they're expected to need care for more than three months
  • A disability (as defined in the Equality Act 2010)
  • Care needs because of their old age

You’re entitled to carer's leave from the first day of work for your employer. Employment rights (like holidays and returning to their job) are protected during carer's leave.

You can take one week every 12 months.

A week is defined as the number of days you normally work over a seven day pattern, so if for example you normally work three days a week, then you’ll be able to take three days of unpaid carer’s leave.

If you have an irregular working pattern (you’re a shift worker for example) then you:

  1. Add up the total number of hours worked in the previous 12 months.
  2. Divide that total by 52 (or however many weeks since you started the job, if you've been in the job less than a year).

How to use carer's leave

If you want to use a day or half a day of carer’s leave, you need to let your employer know at least three days in advance. 

If you need to take more, then the notice period needs to be twice as long as the leave request. For example, if you want to take three days carer’s leave, you need to give at least six days notice.

It doesn’t need to be in writing and you don’t need to give evidence of your dependant’s care needs.

Can employers refuse a carer’s leave request?

No. But if they can show that your absence would cause serious disruption to the organisation then they can ask you to take it at a different time.

If they delay it, the employer must:

  • Agree another date within one month of the requested date for the leave.
  • Put the reason for the delay and new date in writing to the employee within seven days of the original request, and before the requested start date of the leave.


Jacqui Orchard, CEO of The Carers’ Centre, said:

“We welcome the new legislation guaranteeing that carers can take unpaid leave to support their dependents. Carers play a crucial role in the lives of many people and this is now starting to be reflected in employment law.

Life can be so unpredictable for many carers’ and hopefully the introduction of unpaid carers’ leave will go some way to alleviating some of the stresses and stains many feel when trying to balance their working and caring life.

We are though acutely aware of the financial strains many carers are currently facing, it's disappointing that taking this leave will disproportionately impact on the pockets of those who can least afford it."  

Unpaid carer’s leave applies in England, Scotland and Wales.

About the author

The Carers' Centre

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