Carers’ leave (unpaid, short-term)

Staff with caring responsibilities can request up to four weeks unpaid carers’ leave to help them to balance their work and caring commitments. The principles of the scheme are similar to the statutory provision for unpaid parental leave.

Purpose of the scheme

The purpose of carers’ leave is to enable carers some additional flexibility to deal with short-term requirements. Examples of the way that carers’ leave might be used are:

  • To set up and/or settle a dependent into a new care arrangement;
  • To support a dependent who has an acute caring need (such as following an accident/operation, or due to illness or disability);
  • To accompany a dependent on a trip when they will be a required to carry out care responsibilities;
  • To visit a dependent who lives in a different region or country.

Parents who wish to take unpaid leave to care for a child should use the parental leave scheme.

The scheme is intended to deal with short-term needs. Where an individual has longer term needs for flexibility in working arrangements, see ‘alternative options’ below.


An employee is eligible to request carers’ leave if:

  • they have at least one year's continuous service with the University at the date from which they wish to start the period of leave; and
  • the leave will be used to carry out caring responsibilities for a dependent who is ill, disabled, elderly, or has other long-term care needs.

Parents wishing to take unpaid leave for family responsibilities which fall under the scope of the provisions of the unpaid parental leave scheme should use that scheme. 

Length of leave

A carer can request to take up to four weeks unpaid carers’ leave in any year.  The year for this purpose is the twelve months beginning on the date the employee first became entitled to take carers’ leave.

Carers’ leave is to be taken in blocks of a minimum of one week. A 'week' equals the length of time an employee normally works in a week.  If an employee chooses to take a block of less than a week, this will be treated as though it were a full week's leave for the purposes of calculating the remaining entitlement to leave, but payment will be made for days worked as normal.  Where odd days leave are required these can be requested either as annual leave (from standard or where agreed Additional Annual leave entitlement) or as ad hoc days of unpaid leave.

Alternative options

Carers who need more than four weeks’ additional leave should consider the ‘career break’ scheme which allows unpaid leave of up to 12 months to be requested.

Carers who have a long-term need for reduced working should consider making a flexible working application to request part-time working (on a permanent or temporary basis).

Carers who need some additional flexibility to deal with caring responsibilities may want to enquire whether their department offers the additional annual leave scheme through which up to 10 days’ additional annual leave can be arranged, paid for by an appropriate reduction in salary.

See also: bereavement leave

Consideration of requests

Requests are subject to approval by the department, and it will not always be possible to agree a request, due to operational constraints.  Departments are expected to give careful consideration to requests. Where it is not possible to agree a request alternatives should be explored which might include considering different dates or duration for the leave.

Notice Periods

A request to take a period of unpaid carers’ leave must be made at least 21 days before the leave is requested to start and is subject to approval (see ‘Consideration of requests’).

Recording leave

Departments should keep records of carers’ leave as part of their normal absence management procedures.

Unpaid leave should be recorded in CoreHR in accordance with the guidance in QRG: CH22 Unpaid Leave (348kb).

Deduction from salary

The cost of the unpaid leave will normally be deducted from salary in the month, or the month after, that in which the leave is taken.

Contractual arrangements

The employment contract continues during an absence on carers’ leave, unless it is terminated by the employer or employee. This means that an employee continues to benefit from his or her employment rights during unpaid carers’ leave, including holiday accrual.