Employment is important for carers: for their well-being and sense of self-worth, for maintaining income and as a way of retaining social contact and combating isolation. There are times when carers feel they can’t do it all and might have to give up work.
However, employers do not want to lose experienced and valued staff, so it is in everyone’s interest to try and find a way of making it work.
Carers who are employed now have improved rights, but not everyone knows how the law can work to support them.
Flexible working can be a way of managing your work/life balance and 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. 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 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 must consider it and give good reasons if they refuse it.
ACAS have a detailed section on flexible working on their website.
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.
Caring situations can often change and this may mean talking to your employer about what is happening. Carers Trust has a section to help carers dealing with change.
ACAS website has a helpline and specialist advice on your rights to work.
If you would like to stay in work but it is not possible without something changing, talk to your employer as you have statutory rights and may have additional contractual rights. Look at your contract of employment, your staff handbook and any policies to see what they say about carers.
You could also think about getting more help for the person that you care for to allow you to remain in work. This could include getting help through the council, buying care privately or getting some help from friends and family or a local charity. Think about what the person you care for wants and needs and whether there are alternatives to you having to be there.
You could consider:
- Homecare or day care and services
- Assistive technology or aids to help independence
- Befriending services
There may come a time when you find that juggling work and caring is too much and you are considering giving up work. Before making this decision it’s important that you spend some time thinking about the implications and if it’s the best option for you.
Giving up work may be a relief, but it can also be a detrimental move so you may want to think about ways of remaining in work. Leaving work will have implications for your finances and could impact on how you feel about yourself.
Leaving work or reducing your hours will have financial implications. There may be welfare benefits that you can claim but entitlement depends on lots of other factors so you may be left without a sustainable income. Before making a definite decision to leave work or cut your hours, it’s best to get a benefit check done so you know what to expect. There are several ways to get a benefit check done:
- Turn 2 Us offers online benefits checks
- see ACFA to find a local advice centre offering specialist welfare rights advice
If you give up work to care for someone you are probably not thinking about the effect of this on your state retirement pension, but it may impact on the amount you get. To qualify for a state pension you need to have enough qualifying years, which means you need to have either paid or been credited with enough national insurance contributions over the years. Some people who earn too little to pay national insurance or, people who are out of work and not claiming certain benefits may have gaps in their records.
With some benefits like carers allowance your national insurance credits are paid automatically and this helps protects your pension record. If you are caring at least 20 hours per week but don’t qualify for carers allowance, you should apply for carers credit instead to protect your pension record.
You may be able to pay voluntary contributions to make up gaps in your record but there are special rules for doing this.The government website gives you information and you can check your National Insurance record. You can also ask for a State Pension forecast.
When your caring role ends or no longer takes up all of your time, you may think about going back to work. Carers who have been caring for a long time, often worry that they do not have the necessary experience or work skills that employers are looking for. Carers intending to work and continue caring may have concerns about it all fitting together.
Further help and advice
If you are interested in finding out more about the support available for employment, training or volunteering opportunities, you can contact:
- Welcome to Bristol – One Front Door – 0117 922 3440, if you live in Bristol.
- In South Gloucestershire, try Community Learning and Skills Service – 01454 865924
- There is also funded support available through Future Bright – 0117 922 2250, if you are currently working and on a low wage and would like help to increase your hours or access training
- If you would like to explore an idea to become self-employed, you can contact Cool Ventures – 0800 0418293 in South Gloucestershire.
Download information on the carer passport for carers to use in the workplace:
Page last updated 06.06.23