This week we’re raising awareness of National Carer’s Week by focussing on how to support carer’s in the workplace. The theme is ‘recognising and supporting carer’s in the community’. The aim is to come together to recognise the huge contribution unpaid carer’s make to society and the role employers, businesses, politicians, health and social services and members of the public (to name just a few) all have in making sure they feel supported.
It goes without saying that HR and employers have a unique role to play in how to support carer’s in the workplace and help to ensure they have access to any information they need.
It is estimated that 5 million people juggle work and care in the UK, and this figure is increasing with many employees giving up work to manage their caring responsibilities.
One of the steps that has recently been taken to try and assist carers manage their caring responsibility and their employment, is the giving of Royal Assent to the Carer’s Leave Act which started off as a government backed bill and is now law.
Exact details of the legislation are still awaited, but the Act will create a new statutory unpaid leave entitlement for employees who are caring for a dependant with a long-term care need. This will afford carer’s up to one week of flexible unpaid leave a year (taken in whole or half days), and will hopefully enable carer’s to better balance their caring and work responsibilities, supporting them to remain in employment. The new entitlement will be available to employees regardless of how long they have been working for a company.
There is no obligation for employers to pay those who are on carer’s leave – the statutory entitlement is unpaid for eligible employees, but organisations have the option of offering contractual pay.
Whilst this new legislation is very similar to what is already available for time off for dependants, carer’s leave is a brand-new entitlement and should be distinguished with managers aware of the difference and how the leave entitlements should be used. Whilst we are waiting for it to be officially implemented, you may wish to prepare by:
- providing additional training to your managers and HR teams.
- updating policies and procedures and communicating changes with the workforce.
- You could consider offering your employees, who are carer’s, the opportunity to take similar leave to that available in your parental leave provisions. We’ve put together a free template policy to help you see how that might work in practice. You can download a free copy here.
- thinking about those within the business who have caring needs and consider how any request for leave may be accommodated.
We will be sure to keep you updated of any further developments as we hear them.