Employment law

Your employment rights as a carer or dependant

Balancing work and care can be extremely challenging. We outline your legal employment rights and how our experts can help.

25 November 2021

Juggling a job with your unpaid caring responsibilities is no easy task, and it’s important to know what the rights for carers are to ensure you have access to the support and flexibility you need.

According to Carers UK - a support charity who offer support and resources to carers, not just on carers’ rights day, but all year round - 5 million people in the UK are balancing their care responsibilities with work, equating to around 1 in every 7 in the workforce.

Despite this, employers may not always be aware of carers rights at work - the support you’re entitled to and the reasonable requests you’re able to make.

We take you through the legal employment rights for those who are both carers and working professionals, the ways in which your employer should be supporting you in your admirable role, and whether there’s such a thing as employment rights for carers.

How your legal employment rights can support you

In a recent survey, Carers UK found that 78% of carers claimed that the needs of the person they cared for had increased since the start of the pandemic, leaving carers feeling more pressure than ever before.

There are a number of legal employment rights in place to support you in your unpaid carer role and to help alleviate some of the pressure you may feel. They include:

1. Right to flexible working - If you’re an employee with 26 weeks’ continuous employment, you have the right to request flexible working. You may require an amendment to your working hours to support the commitments of the person in your care, for example.

A flexible working request will allow you to request:

  • Amendments to your working hours
  • Home working
  • Compressed working hours (i.e., working the same hours but over fewer days)
  • Part time working (including job share)

2. Right to time off in an emergency – We hope it’s not needed often, but there may be times when you need to leave work immediately to support the person in your care, such as taking time off work to care for a sick relative.

As a carer, you’re entitled to ‘reasonable’ leave to support this duty. However, it’s important to note that although some employers have policies whereby you’re paid during this type of leave, it’s not a legal requirement for them to do so. It’s also worth nothing that this right is for dealing with unexpected events and wouldn’t include providing ordinary care.

3. Protection against discrimination at work – If you’re caring for someone who’s elderly or disabled, then you’re protected against discrimination by association under the Equality Act 2010, which states that age and disability are protected characteristics.

What you can do

The first thing you’ll need to do is speak to your employer about your role as a carer alongside your job. If they’re unaware of the situation, they won’t be able to support you as they should. So, speak to someone you trust in your organisation, such as a line manager or a member of the HR department. It’s always a good idea to keep records of any conversations should any difficulties arise further down the line. Your employer should have processes and procedures in place for you to follow when raising your requests.

Under the Equality Act 2010, carers are protected from discrimination and harassment by association. As a carer you’re associated with the person in your care, and you shouldn’t be treated less favourably because of this. You’d generally need to show that you’ve been treated less favourably because you’re associated with the person you care for. For example, you may be passed up for promotion because your employer believes you can’t be committed to the job due to your caring responsibilities.

If you believe you’re facing discrimination or harassment because of your role as a carer, you could make a claim against your employer. Each case will be very individual, so it’s important to speak to a solicitor in the first instance, as they’ll be able to advise if you have a case and provide you with advice specific to you, allowing you to move forward with a clear understanding of the options available. You only have three months to pursue a claim, so it’s important that you take prompt action.

How can Slater and Gordon help?

When undertaking such an important and challenging role, it’s vital that you receive the support and flexibility from your employer that you deserve and are entitled to. We understand that it’s not always easy, but should you need us, we’re here to help.

We’re passionate about supporting carers’ rights in the workplace, and our employment team have extensive experience in all elements of employment law; including disability discrimination, harassment and bullying, rights for carers and flexible working request law.

Get in touch today on 0330 041 5869 to find out if you have a case, or, if you prefer, you can contact us via our online form or web chat.

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