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Employee care rights: key considerations

Recent updates to employment legislation cover leave entitlement and redundancy

The employment law landscape is rapidly evolving, with three new employee protections granted royal assent in May 2023, so it is more important than ever that both employers and employees have a thorough understanding of care-related rights within the workplace.

Amita Chauhan, Employment solicitor

By putting the correct measures in place, employers should be able to accommodate employee care responsibilities whilst maintaining efficient operations.

Amita Chauhan, an associate in Lodders’ Employment Law team, explains the rights employees have when it comes to caring for dependants, and how employers can better support their staff.

Leave entitlement

Employees have the statutory right to take unpaid time off work to deal with emergencies involving dependants without the risk of losing their job. Dependants include not only children but also the employees’ spouse/partner too. The length of time taken away from work must be agreed with the employer beforehand, but it is usually no more than one or two days.

In May 2023, The Carer’s Leave Act received royal assent, and will create a new statutory unpaid leave entitlement for employees who are caring for a dependant with a long-term care need. From 2024, these employees will be entitled to a week of unpaid carers leave. The Act aims to enable carers to better balance their caring and work responsibilities, supporting them to remain in employment.

Flexible working

Employees may be entitled to request flexible working conditions, such as changing their hours or working part-time to assist with caring for a child. This will depend on the type of work the employee undertakes but the employer should support them wherever possible.

New protections

There are several Acts in place to ensure parents and carers are supported following the birth of a child. The Neonatal Care (Leave and Pay) Act provides parents and carers with up to twelve weeks of additional leave with pay in circumstances where a child requires neonatal care. This leave can be taken without impacting the standard amount of maternity or paternity leave already taken.

On 24 July 2023, the Protection from Redundancy (Pregnancy and Family Leave) Act came into force and allows for the extension of existing redundancy protections whilst on maternity leave, adoption leave, or shared parental leave to also cover pregnancy and a period of time after a new parent has returned to work.

Practical steps to support employee care rights

There are a number of practical measures employers can take to ensure parents and carers feel supported at work and can balance their work and care-related responsibilities. These include:

  • Updating employee policies and handbooks to include care-related entitlements and ensuring employees are aware of these changes;
  • Paying close attention to these rights when carrying out processes such as redundancy;
  • Considering how workers’ care rights will interact with any existing policies, for example, if an employer already operates an enhanced carer’s leave scheme.

Lodders’ employment solicitors offer accurate HR and legal advice to a wide range of clients who require “hands-on” and strategic assistance with the complexities of employment law. If you would like any further advice on care rights in the workplace, please contact Amita Chauhan or Damian Kelly.

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