Carers' rights at work

If you are in full- or part-time employment and your employer is unaware of your caring role, then they will be unable to put systems in place to help you. This includes flexible working and time off in emergencies.

You may feel that you do not want to talk to your employer or manager about your caring role. However if you do, they may be able and willing to provide you with support.

Flexible working

Any employee with over 26 weeks' service has the right to request flexible working. Flexible working could involve:

  • reducing your hours
  • changing start or finish times
  • compressing your hours into fewer days
  • or home working.

You can make one request per year and this must be in writing, so it's worth thinking carefully about what adjustments you need, and putting a strong case for why flexible working will not adversely affect the organisation or business.

You only have the right to request flexible working, not the right to be given flexible work. Your employer can refuse your request if there are specific business reasons for doing so (for example, it would cost the business more).

They should not discriminate against you as a carer when considering your request.

Time off in emergencies

Employees have the right to take 'reasonable' time off to care for dependents (including immediate family or someone relying on you as a carer), in the event of an emergency.

An emergency might be an accident at home or a breakdown in care arrangements.

While some employers give some paid dependents' leave, employers aren't legally required to pay dependents' leave.

Protection against discrimination

As a carer for an older person or someone with a disability, you have protection from discrimination 'by association' under the Equality Act 2010. Discrimination 'by association' would be if an employer treated you less favourably because of your caring role - such as withholding a pay rise given to other employees but not you.

Returning to work

If you have had to give up work because of your caring role, or perhaps you were not able to work at all in the past, you may wish to return to the workplace - either full or part time.

It can feel daunting, particularly if you have had a very long break from employment or have never had the chance. but carers do have valuable skills and knowledge, and there is help and support available.

Reflect on your achievements

Caring involves a whole range of skills that employers find valuable in all kinds of jobs, for example:

  • general skills such as:
    • being resourceful
    • time management
    • managing difficult behaviour
    • negotiation skills (dealing with medical professionals for instance)
  • a range of specific skills, for example moving and handling, managing medication, nutrition, first aid and other skills

Think about how your caring role and your other experience could be applied in the job market. 

Build some more skills and confidence

If you are worried about returning to work, or feel you don't have enough skills, there are ways of increasing your confidence. You could go for some training, education or undertake some volunteer work to get experience.

  • Carers Training - Doing a course or two can help to increase your confidence and maybe add new knowledge or skills.
  • London South East Colleges - Local colleges can provide longer courses including those with qualifications. London South East Colleges also has a career coach to help you plan which courses would help you to go into the job you want.
  • Greenwich Volunteer Service - Volunteering can increase your confidence and may be a step towards paid work. Greenwich Volunteer Service can match you to the best volunteering opportunity for you.
  • Job Centre Plus - Your Job Centre Plus adviser should have information on support available to help you get back into work. They can provide funding for replacement care to enable you to attend training. The Government also provides useful online advice about returning to work for carers.

Support for carers in work

Combining work with caring can be challenging and demanding. Advice and support both for you and the person you care for is available from a range of services.

Find out more about support for carers

Your needs

If your own needs have changed, you can request a review of your assessment. If you have not had an assessment, you can of course request one. 

More about carer's assessments

The needs of the person you care for

If you need to reduce the amount of care and support you give in order to return to work, you can request an assessment or reassessment of the person you care for. Their needs may have changed and they may need more care and support to enable them to live their life.

Get advice about your entitlements to benefits

If you return to work and are continuing to care, you may still be entitled to some benefits, depending on your earnings, and you may be entitled to help to get started in work. Contact our Welfare Rights Advice service to understand your entitlements.

More about the Welfare Rights Service