Legal rights for carers of people with cancer
If you find yourself looking after someone with cancer it's important to know what your rights are.
If you provide ‘regular and substantial’ care for someone over 18, you have the right to a carer’s assessment from the social services department at your local council. This is a chance to discuss what help you need as a carer.
Making sure you get the support you're entitled to
There are 1.1 million people caring for someone with cancer in the UK and just 5% (five in a hundred) have had a Carer's assessment.
This assessment will help you to discuss the support you could receive.
This is your right by law, under the Carers (Recognition and Services) Act 1995 and the Carers and Disabled Children Act 2000. You don’t have to be living with, or related to, the person you care for to be assessed.
The person you care for can also have their needs assessed (called a community care assessment), but if they don’t wish to, you are still entitled to an assessment of your needs.
To get a carer’s assessment, contact your local council’s social services department (social work department in Scotland) - you’ll find the number in the phone book.
Social services must provide you with relevant information and reach an agreement with you on the services they’re going to provide. They should respect your wishes and the wishes of the person you’re caring for.
As a result of the carer’s assessment, social services may provide you with things such as breaks from caring or help with cleaning your house. Your right to an assessment, and to the services and support you may receive, is not linked to your income or capital. However, after the assessment, your local council will look at your savings and property to decide which care services you may be charged for.
It’s important to be aware that even though your needs may be recognised, it doesn’t necessarily mean you will get the help you need. If you aren’t happy with how the assessment was carried out or don’t think you’re getting the support you need, you can contact your local council to complain. Also, if the situation changes, contact social services again to have your needs reassessed.
For more information about carer’s assessments, contact your local council or Carers Direct.
As a carer, you’re protected from direct discrimination and harassment under the Equality Act 2010 (England, Scotland and Wales only). Direct discrimination occurs when you’re treated less favourably than somebody else because of your caring responsibilities. For example, not being offered a job or being offered less favourable terms of employment due to your caring responsibilities. The act also protects people caring for someone with cancer outside of work when:
you’re discouraged from using a service
it has been made impossible for you to use a facility
you’re given a worse service than that which would have been given to you if you weren’t a carer.
Harassment occurs when you’re intimidated, degraded or offended. It’s against the law for you to be harassed at work, and when you buy goods or services when caring for a disabled person.
Victimisation occurs if you’re treated unfavourably because you’ve made a complaint about discrimination or harassment. This is covered under the act, as long as you genuinely believe your original complaint to be true.
Disability Discrimination Act in Northern Ireland
The Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) protects people with a disability in Northern Ireland. Following the decision by the European Court of Justice in Coleman v Attridge Law (2008), carers who are also employees are protected under the DDA 1995 (as amended) from direct discrimination and harassment in the workplace in Northern Ireland.
Requesting flexible working
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The Work and Families Act 2006 and the Employment Rights Act 1996 give employed carers the right to request flexible working, such as changing hours or working from home. Flexible working can be arranged to maintain your normal income.
Eligible carers who have worked for their employer for at least 26 weeks can apply to make a permanent or temporary change to their terms and conditions. They can only make one request a year. Their employer can refuse a request, but must give good reasons for doing so. In this case, an employee can appeal the decision.
The right to request flexible working could make the difference between a carer leaving or staying at work.
Flexible working arrangements
Flexible working arrangements can make it easier for you to carry on working at the same time as caring for your relative or friend. These could include:
working from home
flexible starting or finishing times
compressed working hours (where you work your normal number of hours in a shorter time; for example, fitting a five-day working week into four days)
annualised working hours (this is where the amount of hours you are contracted for per month or year are worked in a flexible way)
job-sharing or working part-time
flexible holidays to fit in with alternative care arrangements.
If your employer refuses
Your employer can refuse a request for flexible working if they feel it’s not in the best interests of the business.
For example, if your request would be too costly; affect the quality or performance of the business; or if they cannot recruit additional staff.
If your employer refuses your request you can appeal their decision. Your appeal has to be made in writing within 14 days of their decision. A further meeting will be held so that both parties can discuss the request further. It can help to get advice and support from a union or work representative or the human resources department.
Your employer may not be able to accommodate your request, but a compromise may be reached, such as working from home a few days a week rather than full-time.
Legal definition of a carer for specific legal rights
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This is a legal definition for specific purposes, for example, the right to request flexible working.
The law defines a carer as someone who cares for:
their husband, wife, partner or civil partner
a child aged under 18
a near relative – this includes parents, parents-in-law, adult children, adopted adult children, siblings, brothers and sisters-in-law, uncles, aunts, grandparents and step-relatives
someone who lives at the same address as the carer.
Time off work in an emergency
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You have a right to take time off work to look after dependants in an emergency. This right is covered by the Employment Rights Act 1996, as amended by the Employment Relations Act 1999.
In Northern Ireland these laws are called the Employment Rights (Northern Ireland) Order 1996 and the Employment Relations (Northern Ireland) Order 1999.
A dependant could be a mother, father, son, daughter, spouse or civil partner, or anyone who lives with the employee, other than a tenant, lodger or boarder.
Possible emergencies can include:
a breakdown in care arrangements
the person you care for becoming ill or having an accident
you needing to make longer-term care arrangements.
You can also take time off when an emergency of this nature occurs with someone who is reliant on you for help in such circumstances. In each case, this right applies right from the start of a job.
You don’t need to have been in the job for a specific length of time before you can take time off in an emergency. However, the law doesn’t define how much time off a person can take - it depends on the circumstances. To use this time off, you must inform your employer as soon as possible after the emergency has happened. Emergency leave is usually unpaid unless your employer chooses to pay you.
Apart from this legal entitlement, your employer may have a policy or be open to negotiation about leave arrangements. These could include:
carers’ leave (paid or unpaid)
borrowing holiday days from next year or buying additional days
career breaks and sabbaticals (usually unpaid).