Know your rights as a working carer

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Nearly 1 in 8 employees is a carer but with the demands of a paid job alongside caring, 1 in 5 carers end up quitting work altogether. It is therefore important that carers know their rights and exercise them when the need arises.

Requesting flexible working

Any employee with at least 26 weeks’ unbroken employment can make a written request for flexible working. This could be a change to the hours they work, the times they work or the location in which they work.

Making your request

To exercise your right to request flexible working, your request must:

  • Be in writing
  • Be dated
  • State that it is an application made under the statutory procedure
  • Specify the change that you’d like to make and when you’d like this to start
  • Explain what effect, if any, you think the change would have on the business and how this could be resolved
  • State whether you have previously made an application and, if so, when.

In return, your employer must:

  • Deal with your request in a reasonable manner, considering the potential benefits and the possible adverse impact on the business, and
  • Inform you of their decision in writing as soon as possible, and no later than 3 months after the request is made.

Taking time off in an emergency

All employees have the right to take a ‘reasonable’ amount of unpaid time off work without notice to deal with urgent situations affecting their dependants. This is called emergency leave or time off for dependants. You don’t need to provide any evidence before taking the time off and there is no limit on the number of times you can exercise this right.

You are entitled to take emergency leave in the following situations:

  • To provide assistance if a dependant falls ill, gives birth, is injured or assaulted
  • To make care arrangements for a dependant who is ill or injured
  • In the event of the death of a dependant
  • To deal with the unexpected disruption of care arrangements for a dependant
  • To deal with an unexpected incident involving your child during school hours

Other events, such as the boiler breaking down or needing to take the dog to the vet, aren’t covered.
Remember too that this only applies to unexpected events and doesn’t include pre-arranged events, such as taking the person you care for to a pre-arranged medical appointment.

Protection from discrimination at work

The Equality Act has made it unlawful for employers to:

  • Treat a job applicant or employee less favourably because of a disability
  • Apply a workplace policy which applies unfavourably against employees with a disability
  • Fail to make reasonable adjustments for employees with a disability
  • Subject a job applicant or employee to harassment related to disability
  • Victimise a job applicant or employee because they have made a complaint about disability discrimination

The Equality Act also protects job applicants and employees from associative discrimination. This means it is unlawful to subject a non-disabled person to direct discrimination and harassment on the grounds of their association with a disabled person.

Getting expert advice
Acas (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) provides free and confidential advice to employers and employees on all aspects of workplace relations. Visit the advice and guidance section on the Acas website – www.acas.org.uk or ask them a question via their online helpline.