Carers Week – the legal definition of a carer and updated legislation

Ruth Renton
12 June 2023

As many of you know, this week is Carers Week 2023, an annual campaign that aims to highlight the challenges faced by carers and recognising the outstanding contribution that unpaid carers make to their families, friends and communities in the UK.

There are various legal definitions of a carer in UK legislation. For me, a carer is anyone who looks after someone – be it a family member or friend. Carers help the young or the old, providing help and support because of physical or mental illness, disability, or addiction, or just the additional support required as they age. Every year Carers Week has a different theme. The theme for Carers Week 2023 is ‘Recognising and supporting carers in the community’.

Essentially, this year’s Carers Week is about ensuring that unpaid family carers are recognised and supported in all areas of life. The recent “State of Caring” Survey published by Carers UK and six other charities (Survey) at the end of last year has shown that 75% of people in the UK who currently provide unpaid care, worry about continuing to juggle work and care. The Survey reminds us that we already know that carers face poorer health outcomes with a high proportion of carers struggling with mental and physical health problems and experiencing low levels of wellbeing. Many carers may not be getting the support they need.

It seems right to highlight in Carers Week 2023, three Government-backed Private Members’ Bills that will give parents and unpaid carers new protections at work regarding extended leave entitlements and redundancy protections. These Bills received Royal Assent on 24 May 2023.

The new legislation is:

  • the Neonatal Care (Leave and Pay) Act 2023, which will allow eligible employed parents whose new-born baby is admitted to neonatal care (premature or sick) to take up to 12 weeks of paid leave in addition to other leave entitlements such as maternity and paternity leave;
  • the Protection from Redundancy (Pregnancy and Family Leave) Act 2023, which will allow for the extension of existing redundancy protections while on maternity, adoption or shared parental leave to also cover pregnancy and a period of time after a new parent has returned to work following such leave. Research from the Equality and Human Rights Commission show that approximately one in nine mothers were either dismissed, made compulsorily redundant or treated so poorly they felt they had to leave their job. This new Protection from Redundancy Act will extend existing protections to protect pregnant women and new parents against this discriminatory practice; and
  • the Carer’s Leave Act 2023, which will create a new statutory entitlement to one week of flexible unpaid leave per year for employees who are caring for a dependant with a long-term care need.

The Government’s press release states that it intends to lay down secondary legislation ‘in due course’ to implement these new entitlements. Looking forward to the details. Press release link :

Ruth Renton
Partner - Employment
Ruth Renton is a Partner Solicitors at Spencer West. She specialises in all aspects of Employment Law.