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Carers Rights Day 2020 – Employment Law

Today as part of Carers Rights Day 2020, Fosters will be joining organisations across the UK in raising awareness and understanding of the rights of unpaid carers and the support services available to them.

Here we look at some of the relevant areas of UK Employment Law and rights of carers.

Why is a Carers Rights Day needed?

  • There are almost seven million carers in the UK – that is one in ten people.
  • This number is rising, so making sure that carers are aware of their rights is extremely important.

Who is a carer?

  • Essentially, you are a carer if you look after a child, relative, partner, friend or neighbour who needs help because of their age, an illness or disability.
  • Many carers don’t think of themselves as carers, describing themselves as ‘just’ the ‘parent’, the ‘partner’ or as ‘family’.

Do I have to tell my employer that I am a carer?

  • This is up to you, and you do not have to tell your employer about your caring obligations if you do not want to. Some employees worry that they might be stereotyped or in some way treated differently if they tell their employer about their caring responsibilities, but if your employer does not know about your caring role, they will not be able to support you.
  • You are entitled to have this information kept confidential if you would like that to be the case, but it is usually sensible to agree that your line manager can be informed about your caring responsibilities.

Can I take time off work?

  • There is no right to ‘carers leave’. If the stresses of caring affects your own health then you may take a period of sick leave.
  • Taking sick leave may affect your pay (you may only be entitled to Statutory Sick Pay rather than your usual salary) and if you take a prolonged period of sick leave this may mean that your employer takes action against you under their long-term ill health procedure, which could ultimately result in the termination of your employment.
  • To avoid this situation, some employers might offer some form of special leave or a career break. You will need to check your employer’s policies to see if they offer this as there is no express legal obligation for them to offer this type of leave.
  • If you care for a child and you have one year’s continuous service with your employer, you may be entitled to parental leave. Parental leave entitlement is 18 weeks per child (per parent) and is to be taken before the child reaches the age of 18. You must use the leave to care for the child and the leave is unpaid.

Can I change my working hours?

  • If you are an employee and you have worked for your employer for at least 26 weeks, you have the statutory right to request flexible working.
  • You need to make your request in writing and say that it is a flexible working request. You also need to set out the new working arrangements that you would like.
  • Your employer has a duty to consider your request, but this does not mean that they have to grant it.

How has Covid-19 affected carer’s work life? What support is on offer?

  • After much change in this area, the government decided that the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme or ‘Furlough’ scheme as it’s commonly known, would be extended to cover the second national lockdown and the winter period, thereby allowing it to be in force throughout November until the 31st March 2021.
  • If employees are furloughed they will be able to receive 80% of their salaries for hours not worked, up to a cap of £2,500.
  • To be eligible, employees must be on their employer’s payroll by 23.59 on the 30th October 2020.
  • Employees can be on any type of contract.
  • Employers can still opt to top up their employee’s wages at their own expense.
  • More information regarding Carer’s Allowance and government support can be found on GOV.UK

What about if you were a carer who was shielding?

  • If you were shielding throughout either the previous or the current lockdown, your employer should not force you to return to work.
  • One option for those who are shielding would be to potentially get a letter from the NHS advising you to shield again.
  • During the current lockdown, the government have said that if you cannot attend work due to shielding, you may be eligible for Statutory Sick Pay, Employment Support Allowance or Universal Credit. The formal shielding notification you receive could even potentially act as evidence for your employer or the Department for Work and Pensions that you are advised to shield and should not work outside of your home for the period stated in the letter.

This article has been produced for information purposes only by our Employment team and should not be construed or relied upon as specific legal advice.

We would always recommend open dialogue where possible with an employer to understand their policies and if they offer any additional support. Here at Fosters we hold the ‘Carer Friendly Tick Award – Employer’ and have a specific carers and flexible working policy, which aims to provide an internal support network across our branches and enables staff to request either short or long-term changes to contracted hours, helping them to balance their commitments.

Alternatively a number of organisations are available to help support carers with information and services – including our partner Caring Together who work in our local area. Please visit their website or call them on 0345 241 0954.

Our lawyers are available to help with full legal support specific to individual needs and would be happy to discuss your requirements directly with you. For more information regarding our Employment department and their services please visit our website – or please call us on 01603 620508.

This article was produced on the 26th November 2020 by our Employment team for information purposes only and should not be construed or relied upon as specific legal advice.