There are 5 million working carers in the UK who are juggling their career with unpaid care. With such a large number of people in this situation, it may help to know more about the support available and carers’ right at work.
It is estimated that 5 million people work and care in the UK – that’s 1 in 7 in every workplace. And this figure is only increasing. Being a carer and working full-time is an immense commitment. As a result, more than 600 people are leaving their paid jobs every day in order to care for an older or disabled relative.
Therefore, if you are a working carer, it is important to understand carers’ rights at work. Carers have a legal right to work in the UK should they choose to. Moreover, it is against the law to discriminate against an employee based on their caring responsibilities.
What are Carers’ Rights at Work?
In the UK, there are specific carers’ rights at work. As an employee, you have the right to request flexible working arrangements from your employer. This is only the case providing you have carried out 6 months of continuous employment from the time you make a request. As the law allows you to submit a formal request for flexible work only once per year, it’s a good idea to talk to your employer as soon as possible.
You are not required to give personal reasons for the request. However, it may improve your chances of having a successful application. As a result, the more details you can provide, the stronger your prospects will be.
It is also your statutory right to take a ‘reasonable’ amount of time away from work where necessary:
- To see to an emergency or unforeseen matter involving someone who depends on you for care.
- There is no limit to the amount of time you can take off in one period.
- The time off is usually unpaid, however, some employers may choose to provide paid absence as a contractual right.
- Be sure to check your HR policy, employee handbook or contract of employment on care leave. ACAS has further useful information on taking time off to care for a dependant.
It’s always a good idea to check the different policies and procedures that your organisation has in place. Furthermore, do not be afraid to have a conversation with your employer if you feel that life at home is becoming too much of a burden.
Support at Home
If you are struggling to combine caring at home with sustaining a job, you may be eligible for extra support from social services. You can ask to have the needs of the person you care for assessed by a professional. This is particularly the case if some time has passed since their previous assessment.
In England, local councils can provide support for working carers and the people who require care by carrying out a ‘carer’s needs assessment’. The good news is that the service is free. It provides them with enough information to decide what can be done to make life more manageable. In Scotland, this service is called an Adult Carer Support Plan.
Returning to Work
After or during full-time care, you may decide to return to work. If you have had an extended period out of work, finding a new job can be overwhelming. Perhaps you lack the confidence or the skills required. In this case, it may be necessary to retrain and update your CV. But remember, it’s never too late to refresh your skills.
Consider acquiring work experience or part-time work to ease yourself back into a routine. Jobcentre Plus may be able to provide personal support through the government’s Work Preparation Support for Carers scheme. Their aim is to help carers acquire new skills through training and work placement programmes.
If you are considering giving up work or retiring early, weighing up your options is vital. It is possible that giving up work may make your caring responsibilities and home life more manageable. However, it is important to consider the implications this will have on your financial situation, your future pension entitlement, and your quality of life.
If you are out of work for an extended period of time, it can be difficult to get back into a career or pick up where you left off. You may also find yourself missing the social aspect of work. Yet, should you decide to leave employment or reduce your hours, you may be eligible for a Carer’s Allowance and support with your pension.
Advice for Employers
In the current economic climate, it has never been more important for employers to retain skilled workers rather than recruiting or retraining new staff. More and more employers are recognising that offering flexible working hours or providing remote work options can improve morale and increase employee productivity.
As an employer, it is vital to have appropriate policies and practices in the workplace. These must take into consideration the needs of full- and part-time carers. Put simply, it’s the employer’s responsibility to ensure carers’ rights at work are met. Free webinars and training sessions are available to offer to your staff. They aim to ensure you provide a comfortable environment for all of your employees.
Carers’ Rights at Work: Key Takeaways
As a full- or part-time carer, you have a legal right to work in the UK. Carers’ rights at work must be fulfilled by your employer. Keep up to date with your company’s policies and be sure to contact your employer if anything is unclear. There are a variety of government schemes in place that can offer both financial and in-house assistance if you are eligible.
Refreshing a Career has tons of resources for carers and employers. From job application tips and CV writing tips to general advice for people working around existing commitments, we’re here to make sure you have all the information.