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Carers Rights Day – how can you support your employees who have caring responsibilities?

In contracts, Employment law, Equality on November 21, 2019 at 10:15 am

Thursday 21st November marks ‘Carers Rights Day’ – an opportunity to recognise all that carers do, as well as for employers to find out more about how to support carers in the workplace.

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Research by Carers UK and Age UK shows the importance of employers engaging with employees who are carers. One report found that 10 hours of caring per week can make it a significant challenge to stay in work. Research also tells us that:

  • 600 people a day leave the workforce to provide care for a loved one, whether that’s a spouse, parent, child or other dependant.
  • 5 million people juggle caring responsibilities with paid work.
  • 64% of those caring for parents are in the workforce. And the numbers are increasing as the UK population ages.

Those in their late thirties to fifties, known as the ‘sandwich generation’ may be balancing caring for elderly parents whilst also bringing up children and working. They are also likely to represent a higher proportion of those at the peak of their profession – talent that businesses want to retain.

According Carers UK, leading companies, such as Centrica, have demonstrated strong business benefits to supporting carers and have suggested that, cumulatively, UK companies could save up to £4.8 billion a year in unplanned absences and a further £3.4 billion in improved employee retention by adopting flexible working policies to support those with caring responsibilities.

How carer-friendly is your business? Do you have policies in place to support those who wish to more flexibly?

For short term temporary arrangements an employee may seek time off for dependants. A dependant of an employee is defined in the legislation as one of the following:

  • husband or wife or partner, child, parent, someone else who is regarded as part of the family and lives with an employee (but not tenants, boarders, lodgers or employees)
  • anyone else who is reliant on an employee in emergency situations.

The length of this leave is meant to be short and no longer than two days in most situations. It can be longer in some circumstances. An employer is not permitted to require an employee who has requested or taken time off for dependants to rearrange their working hours or make up the time that has been lost. What is reasonable time of will depend on the specific circumstances. An employment tribunal case considered an employee who had taken a total of seven days spanning six instances of absence within a 12-month period was reasonable.

Trial periods, temporary changes or even career breaks / sabbaticals in support of a retaining a skilled and knowledgeable worker who would otherwise be lost to the business could be a possibility. However, employers should seek advice from a consultant if you intend to amend terms or have a break in the relationship as continuity of employment needs to be specifically addressed as well as arrangements to return back to previous terms and conditions if that is the intention.

For permanent changes to the working relationship an employee can make a request for flexible working.

In June 2014 changes to the flexible working arrangements broaden to all employees. Previously eligibility was restricted for caring for a child or an adult in need of care. The first arrangements for flexible working in 2002 were restricted only to children under 6 years of disabled children up to 18 years of age. There was no provision for adult care. Employees, part time or full time, with 26 weeks of service, have the right to request a flexible working arrangement.

The flexibility is commonly around times of work, or days of work; however, this can also include the type or pattern of work, or even the place or work. The employer has a duty to consider the request in a reasonable manner and respond in writing as soon as practically possible no later than three months after a formal request. An employee making a request has protection from any dismissal or detriment due to their request being made.

If you would like help reviewing your employment policies, please get in touch – 01462 732444  www.robbryanassociates.org.uk 

For further reference: https://www.employersforcarers.org/resources/research/item/1460-juggling-work-and-unpaid-care-a-growing-issue

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