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What rights do carers have at work?

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Carers who are also in full time or part time employment have certain rights and protections, such as the right to time off for dependants and protection from associative discrimination. There are currently 6.5 million carers across the UK who are looking after the country’s most vulnerable people while also working.  

During this year’s Carers Week, taking place between Monday 11th and Sunday 16th of June, our Employment team here explain more about the rights you have as a carer in employment.

Time off for dependants

Individuals who are employees and have caring responsibilities for children, elderly relatives or dependants are entitled to time off to deal with unforeseen circumstances. Dependants include spouses, civil partners, parents or someone else who depends on you, for instance an elderly neighbour. Examples of unforeseen circumstances that require time off could include:

  • the illness or injury of a dependant;
  • the death of a dependant;
  • the failure of the usual carer to arrive for work;
  • an incident with your child at school;
  • when a dependant gives birth.

As well as dealing with the emergency, you can also request time off to make arrangements related to the emergency such as arranging and attending a dependant’s funeral, or arranging long-term care for an injured or ill dependant.

There is no official upper limit on how much time off you can have for such an emergency, although it must be reasonable in the circumstances. Employers usually only allow one or two days to deal with such emergencies, and such time is usually unpaid.

Protection from associative discrimination

As a carer looking after someone who is disabled or elderly, you are also given protection under the Equality Act 2010. This means you cannot be subjected to direct discrimination or harassment because of your caring responsibilities. This is because you are considered as being 'associated' with someone who is protected by the law because of their disability or age.

Direct discrimination means that you are treated less favourably than someone else because you are caring for a disabled or elderly person. Examples of direct discrimination would be being refused a job due to your caring responsibilities, or being treated less favourably than your colleagues due to your caring responsibilities.

Although carers are protected from being discriminated against for being associated with a disabled person, the right to have your employer make reasonable adjustments in the workplace only applies to the disabled person, not to you as the carer. This means that your employer does not legally have to make adjustments to your working hours or the nature of your role to accommodate your caring responsibilities.

If you’re a carer and you would like more information or advice, please contact our Employment team on 023 8071 7717 or email for more details.  Alternatively, you can find out more information on Carers Week, an annual campaign to raise awareness about the  difficulties of being a carer, as well as the tremendous impacts they can have on our communities, here.



This is for information purposes only and is no substitute for, and should not be interpreted as, legal advice. All content was correct at the time of publishing and we cannot be held responsible for any changes that may invalidate this article.