What are your working rights? Working can have its advantages when you’re a carer, it helps you keep your identity outside of caring and it provides an income. However, many carers need support to help them stay at work. If you’re juggling work with looking after someone, you’re not alone – there are five million working carers in the UK.
As a carer, you have statutory rights to take time off for caring responsibilities; these are:
- Time off for dependants: All employees have the right to take unpaid time off work to deal with an unexpected event involving dependants. The length of time must be reasonable and agreed with your employer. Time off for a dependant is unpaid unless your workplace has a paid policy. www.acas.org.uk/absence-from-work/time-off-to-help-someone-else
- Parental leave: After one year’s employment you can take unpaid leave to look after a child under the age of 18. You can take up to 4 weeks a year and 18 weeks in total per child. You can take parental leave more flexibly if a child receives Disability Living Allowance (DLA) or Personal Independence Payment (PIP). www.acas.org.uk/parental-leave
- Flexible working: You have the right to make a flexible working request, such as changing your hours, having flexible start and finish times or working from home. You must have at least 6 months of continuous employment at the time you make an application. Find out more
- Protection from discrimination: Carers of someone who is elderly or disabled are protected from discrimination by The Equality Act 2010. www.gov.uk/guidance/equality-act-2010-guidance
In addition to statutory rights, you may have contractual rights. Talk to your employer about how they can support you to stay at work. Check your employment contract, staff handbook, HR policies or letter of appointment to see if you have contractual working rights. It’s worth doing as these can be more generous than statutory rights.
The Carer’s Leave Bill
On October 21st 2022, the government confirmed that it supports the Carer’s Leave Bill, to entitle unpaid carers to 5 days of unpaid leave a year.
The new right would apply to unpaid carers in employment if the person they care for is closely associated with them. For example, family or a member of the same household. The person receiving the care must have a long-term care need or fall within a specified exception, such as a person with a terminal illness.
The right will apply from day one of their employment. Carers will be able to take the leave flexibly, from individual days or half-days up to the full five days in one go.
The unpaid leave can be used for providing care or planning for the provision of care. Examples include helping with cleaning, paying bills, medical care or moving someone into a care home.
On the 24th May 2023, the Carer’s Leave Bill received Royal Assent and became the Carer’s Leave Act, confirming that millions of people juggling work and unpaid care will have a new legal #RightToCarersLeave for the very first time. Find out more on the Carers Uk website: www.carersuk.org/news-and-campaigns/our-campaigns/right-to-carers-leave/
Carers UK has put together a factsheet to explain your statutory working rights. It covers flexible working, time off in emergencies, protection from discrimination and parental leave. You can download it below.
Statutory rights factsheet
Access to Work is a Government scheme that provides financial support if you have a disability or health condition. www.gov.uk/access-to-work