June 8, 2022
Carers Week takes place annually and this year’s theme is "Make caring visible, valued and supported." Running from 6-12 June 2022, the aim is to promote understanding and appreciation for those that have caring responsibilities and to further highlight challenges carers face.
Statistics* suggest around 6.5 million people are carers in the UK, 5 million are juggling work with caring responsibilities and 600 people are giving up work daily as they struggle to cope, feeling isolated and overwhelmed. Despite these alarming statistics, the intended plan to introduce one week’s paid leave for carers has been shelved by the Government.
Employers obligations under the Equability Act 2000
Whilst there is currently no paid leave that applies to those employees who are carers, (other than emergency dependant care leave which us unpaid), employers need to understand their obligations to ensure they have the right policies and procedures in place to support carers at work and in turn prevent claims.
The Equality Act offers carers protection from discrimination and harassment on the basis they are associated with an elderly or disabled person. Treating an employee less favourably, for example disciplining a carer for taking time off to care, or refusing time off, could result in an act of discrimination. An employee who is subject to offensive comments about the person they are caring for, be it their age or disability, can argue they have suffered harassment, which is behaviour that creates an intimidating, degrading or offensive environment.
Employers need to train and educate their staff on carers rights and include information in their dignity at work policies to ensure employees are protected from inappropriate comments or behaviour. Supporting managers with carers in their team is also essential.
What steps can employers take to help the carers they employ?
- It is always good to talk. If you know of someone in your organisation that is carer, find out what they are dealing with. Show compassion and understanding and offer what support you can.
- Consider paid time off for carers to attend medical appointments with the person they are caring for or adjust their hours to help them manage the situation.
- Ensure employees are aware of their statutory right to make a flexible working request if necessary.
- Gant additional paid leave over and above holiday entitlement.
- Allow employees access to their phone at all times in case of emergencies.
- Offer employee assistance programmes 24/7, so employees can access trained counsellors when they are struggling.
Visit the Employers for Carers website for more information on what an employer can do to help and details on how to join the employer for carers forum.
What to do if you are a carer and struggling to cope with your work?
- Speak to your manager or HR. Explain the situation as they may be unaware of exactly what you are facing and talk about what support would make a difference.
- Consider making a flexible working request to adjust your hours to help you manage your time better.
- Request unpaid leave if you can cope financially or if it is possible to make up any hours lost to attend medical appointments.
- If you feel harassed or have suffered less favourable treatment at work, raise a grievance and seek some advice.
- Access counselling and seek further information from dedicated support networks such as Carers UK who are a national membership charity for carers: https://www.carersuk.org/help-and-advice/work-and-career/other-rights-at-work
If you're are an employer and need advice and guidance on managing a situation in the workplace relating to a carer, or as an employee you have caring responsibilities and feel unsupported at work, please get in touch with our Head of Employment Law, Danielle Wright: 01246 266680 email@example.com.