Carers in Work

We all know that being a carer can be very rewarding. But we also know that the added responsibilities and money worries can make caring very stressful and be draining. At Forward Carers we’re committed to supporting carers in all aspects of your lives. We know that for many juggling work and caring is an everyday challenge.

You do not need to tell your employer that you have caring responsibilities outside of work. However, there are many benefits for you and the employer if you do. They may already have a policy in place that you may want to read. You can find out  by checking your contract, employee handbook, intranet or by speaking to your manager/Human Resources (HR) department if any of these are available.

At first, try having a conversation with your manager about your situation. During this conversation, they will want to find out if your caring duties will impact on your work. This is an opportunity for you to think about possible work arrangements.

Not all companies offer the same support, but they should signpost you to other sources of information. You can take a look at the Forward Carers events calendar to find activities and support groups in your local area.

Having a conversation with your manager about your situation may sound daunting, and you could feel nervous about this meeting. You can ask someone you trust to be there, this could be a work colleague, a friend or a trade union representative.

All that is discussed at this meeting should remain confidential but that information may also be shared on a need to know basis. Your manager may take notes that you can ask for copies of, and it might be helpful if you take notes to. If you wish for the rest of your work colleagues to be informed, you may wish to do this yourself, or ask your manager to.

During this conversation, you should explain your caring role and situation. This is an opportunity for you to explain your concerns and commitments about possible work arrangements such as flexible working.

The manager may ask you how your caring role will affect you personally, your work commitments, your attendance and your ability to do your job both in the short term and long term.

You can ask what leave you are entitled to (statutory entitlements) and what other support is available if there is a policy in place. Check if they are aware of your legal rights as a carer as if they do not have policies in place it may be difficult for them to make any decisions. If they need more information, please advise them that Forward Carers have a link to Working for Carers and this may be something they can look into.

During or after your meeting with your manager they should give you information on:

  • Any flexible or work adjustment policies
  • Sick leave, sick pay, absence including emergencies and if using any of these how that might affect your wages
  • Any company benefits that may be in places like occupational health, counselling services, and employee assisted programmes
  • Relevant statutory benefits
  • Specialist organisations such Forward Carers, Carers Trust, Carers UK.
  • Make it clear if you want anyone else to see the notes
  • Have regular meetings to discuss any changes in care duties
  • Who would be your point of contact

However please note that not all companies have the same benefits and some employers may not be able to accommodate a request for flexible working or changes to your role depending upon the nature of the job. It is important to get advice if you are unsure please contact ACAS.

You can request by law for flexible working and you don’t have to be a carer to ask for it. If you have been employed by your employer for 26 weeks (continuously) then you can apply. This means that you are making a statutory request and the law states that your employer has to consider your request in a ‘reasonable manner’.

You can only apply for flexible working once a year so it might be useful for you to make an informal request first. This means that you have not requested this under the law of flexible working. This could be something short term if you wanted to make a temporary or small change to the way you work.

Flexible working arrangements can include:

  • Flexible start or finish times.
  • Compressed working hours – this means working your normal number of hours but over fewer days. For example, fitting in a five-day working week by working longer hours over four.
  • Working from home.
  • Job-sharing or working part-time.
  • Flexible holidays to fit in with alternative care arrangements.
  • Annualised working hours – this is where you work the hours you are contracted for per month or year in a flexible way.

Have a look at flexible working planning on citizen’s advice website.

To be able to request flexible working you would need to email or write a letter to your employer, please visit applying for flexible working for advice on what to include in your letter.

If your request for flexible working has been refused

If your request has been refused, then your employer would need to give you a specific business reason. An example could be if the work could not be distributed to other members of staff or if it could affect the performance of the business.

Some situations may involve finding the middle ground. For example, your employer may agree with you working from home for a few days a week, rather than working from home full-time.

For more information visit after the application on Gov.uk.

Everyone in the UK has the right to take a reasonable amount of unpaid time off work to look after dependants in an emergency. This is called time off for dependants. A dependant could be a spouse, partner, child, grandchild, parent, or someone who depends on you for care.

Possible emergencies can include:

  • The person you care for becomes more unwell or has an accident
  • A breakdown in care arrangements (when someone who usually provides care cannot do it)
  • When you need to make longer-term care arrangements, for example when the person you are caring for needs more care.

For more information, please visit time off for dependants on the gov.uk website.

You may think about taking early retirement to care for someone, but this could have a big effect on your life in a number of ways. The financial implication is what worries most employees, but giving up work may also make you feel isolated and out of touch with workplace friends. You also need to think about any career development and skills that you may lose whilst not being in work.

Before giving up work, think about the following questions:

  • Would flexible working help you manage both working and caring?
    If you are struggling with your caring role or thinking about giving up work, then the Citizens Advise Bureau or ACAS can advise you.
  • Could you take a paid or unpaid break from work to think about your options?
    Look at informing your employer about your caring role and responsibilities.
  • Have you been to the Jobcentre Plus or contacted your work coach?
    If you are currently claiming benefits and/ or working, then your work coach at the Jobcentre Plus can tell you about the support you can get to help you combine work with your caring responsibilities.
  • Have you looked into what benefits you may be entitled to?
    If this is something that you are considering then you may want to do some simple calculations on entitled to. This is an anonymous and free service to use.

If you have decided that you want to leave work, then you will need to contact the Jobcentre Plus. Be mindful that your Work Coach will ask you why you have decided to give up work, this may have an impact on the benefits you are entitled claim.

Application forms for benefits are generally online, available at your local Jobcentre plus or can be accessed via your local library using their free internet access.