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 a friend or relative 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 care. As a working carer you are likely to need support at work, and often different levels of support at different times – from access to a telephone to check on the person you care for, to taking leave to help out when someone is being discharged from hospital.
The good news is that carers have some statutory rights and more and more employers are realising the benefits of supporting carers.
Carers’ rights at work
Most working carers should have guaranteed 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.
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 more support. This will be outlined in your contract and the organisation’s policies. 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.
Sometimes the support you need is very simple like access to a telephone or information and advice.