Carers rights

For many people, looking after a loved one who is ill, frail or disabled is something they do out of love and because it feels like the right thing to do. Some people feel they have no choice.

It takes time to see yourself as a carer and even longer to recognise you have certain rights. However, it’s important to know your rights in order to access support that may be essential to maintaining your own health, wellbeing and work life balance.

Right to a carer’s assessment
Rights at work
Should I tell people about my caring role?
What if I have to take time off in an emergency?
My caring role has increased. Can I reduce my working hours?
Rights under the Equality Act
My employer advised me against applying for promotion because of the impact of caring for my disabled child. Am I being treated unfairly?

Right to a carer’s assessment

The Care Act 2014 strengthens the right of adult carers of adults to have an assessment of their needs (called a carer’s assessment). For the first time it places a duty on the local authority to plan support for those carers who meet the eligibility criteria.

The rights of parent carers have also been addressed within the Children and Families Act. A local council has a duty to provide an assessment to a carer of a disabled child aged under 18 if it appears that the parent carer has needs, or the parent carer requests an assessment.

Young carers are children under 18 with caring responsibilities. Their rights to be assessed come mostly from the Children’s Act 1989 and the Children and Families Act 2014. As part of the whole family approach, if there is a disabled adult being cared for, then the local council has a duty to consider whether there are any children involved in providing that care and, if so, what the impact is on that child.

Local authorities can arrange for other organisations such as charities or private organisations to carry out the assessments.

See arrangements for carer’s assessments in Bristol and South Gloucestershire.

Rights at work

When you are caring it can be extremely difficult to juggle paid work with caring responsibilities. Carers may give up paid employment, even when they would rather not. In some situations stopping work is the best option and a huge relief. However many carers find staying in work provides a balance and of course there are also money issues to take into consideration.

If you want to remain in paid work there are steps you can take to help you manage your work commitments alongside your caring role. If you live in Bristol or South Gloucestershire you can get help through our Carers in Paid Employment service.

Should I tell people at work about my caring role?

Caring situations can often change and this may mean talking to your employer about what is happening. Letting them know as soon as possible gives your manager the opportunity to informally agree a plan with you if your work pattern is disrupted. Carers Trust provides useful information to help carers dealing with change.

What if I have to take time off in an emergency?

You are entitled to take reasonable time off work to deal with unexpected problems or emergencies with close family members, or other people who depend on you. This is sometimes called ‘dependant leave’. It is not for things you knew about in advance, like a planned hospital appointment or taking the person you care for to a routine appointment.

You won’t usually be paid (but check your contract of employment as some employers may pay their employees in this situation).

The government website gives more information about taking time off in an emergency.

My caring role has increased. Can I reduce my working hours?

Flexible working can be a way of managing your work life balance and may help you maintain work and caring. Most people who have been working for their employer for 26 consecutive weeks have a statutory right to request flexible working. If you do not have a statutory right you can still ask for flexible working but your employer is not obliged to consider it. Flexible working can include:

  • working part time hours
  • changing working hours to fit in with care arrangements
  • working your usual hours in fewer days
  • flexitime, which allows you to fit your working hours around agreed core times
  • home working for part or all of the time

There is a formal process for requesting flexible working when it is a statutory right. Carers UK has a section about this on their website.

Before asking for flexible working think about what would work best for you and about the ways it would impact positively on your ability to do your job. If you are a bit unsure of what the proposed working pattern would be like, or your employer is reluctant, you could suggest a trial period to see how it goes. Your employer does not have to grant your request to flexible working but they must consider it and give good reasons if they refuse it.

ACAS have a detailed section on flexible working on their website.

Rights under the Equality Act

Carers and disabled people have the right not to be discriminated against or harassed under the Equality Act. Carers have the right not to be discriminated against as a result of their caring role and “association” with a disabled person.
See Citizens Advice guide to your rights as a carer.

My employer advised me against applying for promotion because of the impact of caring for my disabled child. Am I being treated unfairly?

Your employer cannot assume that you are not able to do the job because you have a disabled child. This would be discriminating by association. You should explain to your employer that you have a right to be judged on your merits at work and consider seeking advice from an employment law specialist.