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It's important to be aware of your legal rights as a carer. Your human resources department may be able to help you.
This page focuses on your legal rights as a working carer. For further information on balancing work and caring responsibilities, you might also find our general introduction to working while caring| helpful.
We also have information for people who are self employed|.
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 can make it easier for you to carry on working at the same time as caring for your relative or friend. These could include:
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.
You have a right to take time off 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:
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:
As a carer, you’re protected from direct discrimination and harassment at work under the Equality Act 2010| (England, Scotland and Wales only). The act also protects carers outside of work, such as when you shop for goods or services, and when you use public transport.
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:
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.
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.
If you feel you can’t resolve matters to your satisfaction, you may want to consider lodging a formal grievance. Your employer should have a grievance policy that sets out the steps to be followed when an employee wants to bring a grievance. A staff or union representative can give you further advice.
If you feel that your grievance is not being dealt with fairly, and that your employer is being unreasonable, you can complain to an employment tribunal. This can help resolve disputes between employees and employers about employment law.
There are strict time limits on when you can make a complaint. Most complaints need to be received by the tribunal within three months of the matter you are complaining about.
If you’re considering taking a complaint to an employment tribunal, it’s a good idea to get advice from a union representative if you have one, ACAS (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service)|, or a solicitor specialising in employment law.
Content last reviewed: 1 May 2011
Next planned review: 2013
For answers, support or just a chat, call the Macmillan Support Line free (Monday to Friday, 9am-8pm)
If you're working while caring and need support or advice, you can visit the carers group in Macmillan's Online Community.|
If you have any questions about cancer, need support or just want someone to talk to, ask Macmillan.
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