Having the right information at the right time can make all the difference when you’re caring for someone.
Every day 6,000 people become carers but often it’s not something they have planned for. Each year Carers Rights Day brings organisations across the UK together to help carers in their local community know their rights and find out how to get help and support.
Carers rights in the workplace
If you are looking after someone who is older or has disabilities you are protected under the Equality Act 2010 against direct discrimination or harassment because of your caring responsibilities.
Direct discrimination is where you are treated less favourably than someone else because you are caring for an elderly or disabled person. This could include your employer:
- not offered a job
- refused promotion – this could be because your employer is concerned you won’t be focused on the job
- given less favourable employment terms
Support from your employer
It’s worth checking your employer’s policies for supporting carers.
Find out what support and policies your employer has by checking your contract, staff handbook or intranet. You can also speak to your line manager, the personnel department in your organisation, or your trade union.
You do not have to tell your employer about your caring responsibilities, but you might find that if you do inform them about your situation they can help you manage your two roles.
It may also help to discuss your situation with someone you trust at work. You may find that other colleagues are also carers, and that together you are more able to talk to your employer about how they can support you.
Juggling work and caring
Looking after someone can take up a lot of your time and effort. You might be worried about what to do if complications arise with the person you’re looking after when you are supposed to be working. But there are things that you can do to help you cope with the pressures of work and care.
Check if you have:
- a right to take time off in an emergency, for example, to arrange alternative care if the care package you have in place breaks down
- rights to parental leave
- a right to ask for flexible working; for example, to work part-time or flexi-time, or to do some or all of your job from home
- information about your employer’s own policies for carers in the workplace: for example, career breaks, early retirement.
This could include:
- flexible start or finish times
- home working
- annualised hours
- compressed hours
- shift swapping
- job sharing
- term-time working
- part-time working
- flexible holidays.
If you have worked for your employer for at least 26 weeks you can apply to make a permanent change to your terms and conditions. Flexible working can be a very helpful tool helping you to balance work and your caring commitments.
An employer can refuse a request for flexible working if it is not in the best interests of the business. This might be if it would be too expensive or could affect the performance of the business.
If your employer refuses your request, you may be given the right to appeal. You may have some new information that would help them reconsider their decision. It is a good idea to get advice from your union representative (if you belong to a union), a staff representative or your HR department.
Looking after a child and working can be very stressful. There might be times when you are unable to go work. Make yourself aware of your rights to parental leave so that you are prepared if there ever comes a time when you are unable to go to work.
If you have at least one year’s continuous service with your employer and are responsible for a child aged under five (or under 18 if the child receives Disability Living Allowance) you are entitled to:
- 13 weeks (unpaid) parental leave per child to look after your child, or
- 18 weeks (unpaid) parental leave per child to look after your child with disabilities
Leave can be taken in blocks of one week up to a maximum of four weeks leave in a year (for each child). It can also be taken in one day, or multiples of a day if the leave is to care for a child with disabilities, again to a maximum of four weeks in a year. This leave needs to be booked 21 days in advance.
Time off for an emergency
If you look after someone there may be times when you cannot go to work because there is an emergency involving the person you look after. You might be worried because you’re not sure what you should do in this situation, but you may be entitled to time off work for such emergencies. This means you have peace of mind knowing that if the worst should happen, you can be there to support the person you look after.
To use this right to time off, you must inform your employer as soon as possible after the emergency has happened. You cannot be victimised or dismissed by your employer for requesting time off in emergencies.
It is important to try to sort out any problems if you feel your employer is not being reasonable. But if this does not work, you may want to think about making a formal complaint (or grievance). Your employer should have a policy that explains how you do this. Ask a union or staff representative for further advice.
If you are an employer or an employee and would like advice on employment and caring please get in touch.
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