workingwise.co.uk offers advice on your rights and available support if you have caring responsibilities that impact your work.
Covid-19 has cast a spotlight on the vast numbers of people who are working carers, that is, they have responsibility for looking after someone – a partner, a parent or another relative – in ways that may impact on their work. During the pandemic, many had to combine caring and working as support services were not fully available. Age UK’s latest research shows Britain’s 1.8 million older carers are dangerously tired and lack support. Carers UK also recently published new research showing that the impact of caring on carers’ mental and physical health was topping their list of concerns.
In the United Kingdom, it is estimated that approximately one in ten people are caring for someone else and that one in five of those are aged 50-64. As the rise in life expectancy continues to increase, it is estimated that by 2030 the number of carers will increase by around 60%.
So, what support is available?
Legally, the Government confirmed last year that carers will have a new day one right to one week of unpaid leave each year to carry out caring responsibilities, although this will not be in place until “parliamentary time allows”. Carers UK and others have been calling for 10 days’ paid leave, but say unpaid leave is a start. The right will apply to employees who need to take time off to care for a dependant. A dependant will include:
In order to be eligible for carer’s leave, which could be taken as a single block or as days or half days, the person being cared for must have a long-term care need.
An employee will be able to take carer’s leave for any of the following forms of caring:
Carers who take the time off will be protected from dismissal in relation to their caring responsibilities. Under the Equality Act, carers already have the right not to be discriminated against as a result of their caring role and “association” with a disabled person.
Other legal rights include the right to request flexible working and the right to take unpaid time off during emergencies without affecting your employment.
It is also worth checking whether your employer has a carers policy, carers passport [which enables a carer and their manager to discuss and document the flexibilities needed to combine caring and work so that they can take that pattern with them if they change role within the organisation] or a carers network which may offer more support and more generous terms. You could also find out if it is possible to take a career break, early retirement or voluntary redundancy in negotiation with your employer.
Caring for someone else can be an isolating experience but there are resources out there that provide dedicated support to carers in the UK. Online resources such as The Carers Trust and Carers UK will provide the most up-to-date expert information and advice tailored to your situation. They can also advise on your rights, provide access to online forums and support and share personal stories from real life carers which can help you to feel less isolated.
Caring for someone can be equal to a full-time job so taking even just a short break is essential for your own health, wellbeing and resilience.
Some of the options available include:
More information on respite care can be found on carersuk.org/factsheets
Technology can make life as a carer easier in many ways from providing online support groups where you can share experiences and knowledge, through to websites designed to equip you with the most up to date advice and support as a carer.
In addition to online services, there are many simple apps and devices available to help someone live independently or give you confidence that they will be ok when you can’t be around.
If you are caring for someone who has trouble controlling household appliances for example, there are plenty of solutions to help them. Using these devices can help them manage their home environment more easily using simple apps or technology such as voice activation.