Employment rights for carers

If you are managing a job alongside looking after someone, you are not alone - there are three million working carers in the UK.

Continuing to work while caring can help you feel good about yourself and provide you with social interaction outside of your caring role. But staying in work or returning to work might feel like a daunting prospect and you may find it helpful to take some time off or to ask your employer if you can work flexibly.

Juggling work and care can be very challenging, so it’s important to find out about your rights.

Your rights in work come from two sources:

  • the law gives you ‘statutory rights’ which everyone in employment are entitled to
  • your contract of employment gives you ‘contractual rights’ which can be more generous than statutory rights depending on your employer's employment policies.

Statutory rights

Statutory rights that are likely to be of interest to carers include:

  • the right to request flexible working
  • the right to time off in emergencies
  • protection from discrimination
  • the right to parental leave
  • annual leave and pay.

Taking time off in an emergency

It's a statutory right to be able to take time off work to deal with an emergency involving a dependent. This includes someone who depends on you for care. The amount of time you are able to take is described as 'reasonable amount of time' - usually one or two days but it depends on your employer. Some employers pay employees for emergency leave while others don't.

NHS Choices has excellent advice for carers on statutory employment rights including practical tips on things such as making a request to your employer for flexible working and what to do if you feel your employer is treating you unfairly.

Citizens Advice will be give you advice on employment rights. You can find your nearest branch by using the Carers Directory (search for advice / drop in services)

Carers UK have further information about rights at work for carers. They also provide advice about managing caring and employment, leaving work or reducing working hours, education and returning to work as a carer.

You can find further general information about statutory employment rights on the gov.uk website.

Contractual rights

It is always worth checking your contract of employment, staff handbook, HR policies or letter of appointment to see if you have any contractual rights on top of your statutory rights. Many larger employers offer staff extra rights and benefits as a way of minimising staff turnover and keeping valued employees.

Legal advice

Rothera Sharp Solicitors are working with Derbyshire Carers Association to provide free legal advice clinics to carers in Derbyshire and may be able to help you with employment law, as well as other legal issues you may face as a carer. The clinics will happen on a monthly basis from June 2017 onwards. More clinics / venues are planned as the scheme progresses. Dates and venues are detailed in the news section.

Other helpful websites

This information was last updated on 11/08/2017

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