Carer’s Leave Act: Five Strategies Employers Can Implement to do More

Closeup of a doctor holding patient's hands, compassionate care, support, empathy, human connection, love and understanding, generative ai

The Carer’s Leave Act comes into force from 6 April 2024. This means employers will be required to offer their employees up to one week’s unpaid leave per year to give or arrange care for a dependant. 

This includes individuals facing physical or mental illness or injury necessitating care for more than three months, those with disabilities as defined by the Equality Act 2010, or those requiring care due to old age. This entitlement extends beyond familial relations, encompassing anyone reliant on the employee for care.

Importantly, employees are entitled to carer’s leave from their very first day of employment and their fundamental employment rights, such as holiday entitlement and the guarantee of returning to their position, remain safeguarded during this period of leave. This legislative change marks a significant step towards supporting employee welfare and balancing work-life responsibilities in the modern workplace landscape1.

The challenges of caregiving

According to CIPD2, carers fulfil vital roles in families, communities, and society at large, enhancing the quality of life for those they support. However, caregiving can pose significant challenges, ranging from physical and emotional strain to financial hardship, particularly when combined with paid employment.

Alarmingly, a substantial portion of working carers in the UK feel unable to discuss their caregiving responsibilities with their employers, often due to perceived lack of support. This reluctance can lead to feelings of isolation and even contemplation of leaving their jobs altogether.

Approximately 5 million individuals in the UK, representing 1 in 7 employees in every workplace, are estimated to manage both work and caregiving responsibilities, with this number expected to rise. The challenges inherent in balancing work and caring duties contribute to the decision of 1 in 6 carers to either leave their jobs or reduce their working hours to accommodate their caregiving responsibilities. Therefore, organisations such as Employers for Carers have been established in order to bridge the gap and offer guidance to carer-employees.

Five strategies employers can implement

Nurse-led health and wellbeing provider RedArc (which is part of the Howden Group) believes that whilst the Carer’s Leave Act is a step in the right direction, employers should be playing a more vital role in offering support to their employees.

For many employees, taking unpaid leave may not be financially feasible. Simply mandating employers to provide unpaid leave overlooks significant gaps in the practical support needed by carers. Drawing from experience, RedArc understands the complexities of caring for a loved one and acknowledges the profound impact on carer-employees’ mental, physical, financial, and social wellbeing. RedArc advocates for additional measures to complement the Carer’s Leave Act, offering tangible support to carer-employees:

  1. Ensuring mental health support is available within employee benefits programmes to help carer-employees cope with the mental strain of caregiving.
  1. Facilitating connections with relevant charities for carer-employees to share experiences and foster a sense of community, alleviating feelings of isolation. Expert assistance in accessing local support can be invaluable.
  1. Providing access to clinical experts to enhance understanding of a loved one’s medical needs and determine appropriate care levels, supporting carer-employees in their caregiving roles.
  1. Supporting carer-employees’ physical wellbeing through nutrition, fitness, and broader wellness initiatives to sustain their ability to provide care effectively.
  1. Offering guidance on accessing financial support resources, such as the Citizens’ Advice Bureau and organisations like Step Change, to alleviate financial strain resulting from caregiving responsibilities.

Although granting a week of leave for caregiving is a step forward, employers must acknowledge the need for comprehensive support. Failure to do so risks losing valuable staff, as carer-employees may seek part-time work, less demanding roles, or resign, impacting both their wellbeing and financial stability. 

Christine Husbands, commercial director for RedArc said: “Caring can impact someone’s ability to work, in fact, it’s well documented that many people find the pressures of working and caring too much and choose to leave the workforce entirely. Having a week of clear headspace to provide or arrange care is real progress but it needs to come hand in hand with much wider support to help carers stay in work, long after the unpaid leave is over.”


You might also like:


Sponsored by The Watercooler


Sign up to receive Make A Difference's fortnightly round up of features, news, reports, case studies, practical tools and more for employers who want to make a difference to work culture, mental health and wellbeing.