Carers: making sure you know your rights
Published: 20 Nov 2023
Caring for loved ones can be one of the hardest jobs around. And so it’s important to be equipped with all the help that you’re entitled to. This year has seen some positive changes in legislation will give extra support for carers when it comes into effect in 2024. Here’s a rundown of things you can do now, and what to expect from next year.
Requesting flexible working
Having a flexible working arrangement can help you cope with the demands of caring, as well as manage a crisis.
Although hybrid and remote working are the most common, there are countless ways to work flexibly, the beauty of which is there is always a type of flexible working that will fit your role. Reduced or compressed hours, changing start and finish times, term-time or annualised hours, flexitime, job share – the list goes on. There’s no one way to work flexibly, instead it’s best achieved with a solution that is tailored to both your needs, and the needs of your employer.
- You have the right to make a statutory flexible working request working once you have been in your role for 26 weeks.
- You have the legal right to make one statutory request in any 12-month period.
- You will have to explain how the arrangement will work, and be prepared to talk about the potential impact on your work.
- Your employer has to process the request within three months.
From 2024 (date to be confirmed)….
- You will be able to make a statutory flexible working request from your first day as an employee.
- You will be able to make two statutory flexible working requests in any 12-month period.
- You will not have to explain how the flexible working arrangement will work in practice.
- Your employer will have to process the request within two months.
- If your employer wishes to reject the application, they will be obliged to enter into a consultation with you, which will help open up a dialogue that will hopefully lead to a better outcome.
It is important to remember that in addition to the statutory scheme, you can make a non-statutory or ‘informal’ flexible working request at any time, no matter how long you have been with your employer or how many previous flexible working requests you have made. Although the protections and procedural requirements of the statutory scheme won’t apply to an informal request, you are still protected under the Equality Act, which applies to all flexible working requests whether statutory or not. Parents and carers who have requested flex due to their caring responsibilities may be able to argue discrimination on the basis of sex and/or disability if their request is refused. If you are requesting flex due to caring responsibilities, it is important to make this clear in your request.
We have a wealth of resources on how to negotiate and make a flexible working request, as well as what to do if a request is turned down. If granted, a flexible working request is permanent, so make clear if you only need temporary support.
From 2024 (date to be confirmed) carers will have the right to five days leave per year to fulfil their role as a carer for a disabled or ill loved one from day one as an employee. This leave is unpaid, and we continue to campaign with Carers UK for paid leave.
Taking time off for emergencies
From the first day as an employee, you have the right to take unpaid time off work to manage certain situations affecting your dependants. Sometimes this is called ‘Time off for Dependants’ or ‘Emergency Family Leave’ and it is aimed at dealing with emergencies.
The time you take should be deemed necessary and reasonable. But it’s always worth checking your employment contract or leave policy, as employers may give more generous emergency family leave than the statutory minimum.
Our advice would be to approach your employer to explain your situation to determine the most appropriate type of leave available. They may be able to offer you a paid alternative, or an alternative that allows you more time off.
You can read more about the details of this type of leave on our website.
Parents of children under 18 can take unpaid parental leave if they have been with their employer at least a year. Parents can take up to a total of 18 weeks altogether for each of their children before the child is 18, and it is limited to four weeks a year per child. Although you can be expected to give 21 days’ notice, it’s always worth discussing with your employer whether you can take this at short notice if needed.
Parents taking parental leave for a disabled child (who is entitled to Disability Living Allowance or Personal Independence Payment) can take it in blocks of a day. Your employer cannot refuse you leave or penalise you for taking parental leave, but there are circumstances in which employers can postpone parental leave.