Carers Rights Day – Carers Rights in Work

This Thursday, 21st November is Carers Rights Day, which is a day where organisations come together to help carers understand their rights and help them find out how they can get the help and support they are entitled to.

A study carried out by Carers UK found that 5 million people in the UK are juggling caring responsibilities with work – that’s 1 in 7 of the workforce. However, the study also found that the significant demands of caring mean that 600 people give up work every day to care for an older or disabled relative.

We have therefore produced this article to highlight to both employees and employers a carers statutory rights within the workplace.

1 – The right to request flexible working

In order to make a flexible working request, an employee must have at least 26 week’s continuous service from the date the request is made. The employee must also have not made another statutory request in the previous 12 months.

The flexible working request must be made in writing and set out:

  • the date of the request;
  • state whether they have previously made a flexible working request to the employer and, if so, when;
  • state that it is a request made under the statutory procedure;
  • specify the change applied for and the date on which it is proposed the change should become effective; and
  • explain what effect, if any, the employee thinks making the change applied for would have on his/her employer and how, in his/her opinion, any such effect might be dealt with.

An employer can only refuse a flexible working request on one or more of the following eligibility grounds:

  • the burden of additional costs;
  • detrimental effect on ability to meet customer demand;
  • inability to reorganize work among existing staff;
  • inability to recruit additional staff;
  • detrimental impact on performance;
  • insufficiency of work during the periods the employee proposes to work; and
  • planned structural changes.

2 – The right to parental leave

Parental leave is available to birth and adoptive parents and also to anyone who has, or expects to have, parental responsibility for a child, provided that the employee has been continuously employed by the same employer for a period of 12 months or more.

Eligible employees are entitled to take a total of up to 18 weeks’ unpaid parental leave for each child for the purpose of caring for that child. The parental leave must be taken before the child’s 18th birthday.

3 – The right to time off for dependents

All employees, regardless of length of service, have the statutory right to take unpaid time off for dependents. An employee is entitled to take reasonable time off where it is necessary:

  • to provide assistance if a dependent falls ill, gives birth, is injured or assaulted;
  • to make care arrangements for the provision of care for a dependent who is ill or injured;
  • in consequence of the death of a dependent;
  • to deal with the unexpected disruption, termination or breakdown of arrangements for the care of a dependent; and
  • to deal with an unexpected incident which involves the employee’s child during school (or another educational establishment’s) hours.

If a situation falls outside one the categories listed above, then an employee will not have a statutory right to take time off. In addition, this statutory right does not cover planned situations, such as taking a dependent to a planned medical appointment.

For the purposes of this statutory right, a dependent is defined as a spouse, civil partner, child or parent (but not a grandparent) of the employee, or a person who lives in the same household as the employee (excluding tenants, lodgers, boarders and employees).

Although this article addresses an employee’s statutory rights, it is worth noting that an employee may have contractual rights which are more favorable. It is therefore worth checking employment contracts, the staff handbook and any other policies and procedures which may contain contractual rights.

If you would like more information about the issues raised in this article, please contact the employment team on 029 2034 5511 or at