Currently there are over three million working carers in the UK. It may feel as if you are juggling two jobs when you are holding down a paid job and caring for someone but work can be important for your well-being, income and for maintaining social contacts.

There are things you can do to cope with the pressures of work and caring. As a working carer you may need support at work and perhaps different levels of support at different time. This may include access to a telephone to check on the person you care for, or taking leave to help out when someone is being discharged from hospital.

Carers have some statutory rights and an increasing number of employers are realising the benefits of supporting their staff who are carers.

Carer’s rights at work

Most working carers have the following rights:

  • The right to request flexible working
  • The right to time off in emergencies
  • The right to parental leave if you have a child
  • The right not to be discriminated against or harassed under the Equality Act

Your employment status can affect your entitlement to these rights. If, for example, you are self-employed, on a short-term contract or employed through an agency you may not be covered by these rights. If this applies to you it is important to seek advice.

A good employer

In addition to your statutory rights, your employer may offer additional support. This will be outlined in your contract and the organisation’s policies (look in your staff handbook if you have one). For example, you may be able to use leave arrangements, paid or unpaid, at the discretion of your employer to cover intensive periods of care.

If you are thinking of giving up work, a career break or sabbatical allows you to keep your options open, ensuring you can go back, and keeping you in touch with the world of work. Some employers offer paid and/or unpaid career breaks, often after a specified period of service with them, so check your organisation’s policies.

Carers MK can provide letters of support for you and also act as an advocate at meetings with your employer.

Additional information for working carers can be found on the Carers UK website.