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Caring while in paid employment

Leanne Owen with her husband, Peter

You may be working in paid employment as well as caring for someone with Parkinson's.

Paid work can provide financial independence and money to help with caring, a break from caring, social networks and friendships, self-esteem and a better pension. But combining responsibilities has its own challenges.

Everyone is different and the decisions you make about work will depend on your personal circumstances.

Know your rights at work. Some employers may be supportive, others may not be.

But the best start is to get as much information as you can about your options.

If you care for someone with Parkinson's, it is important to have your needs assessed.

If you are working, a carer's assessment from your local social services, social work department or health and social care trust will take your employment needs into account. This may give some financial peace of mind.

Should I tell my employer that I'm a carer?

There is no obligation to tell your employer about your responsibilities as a carer.

But carers have statutory rights at work that help to meet their needs. And employers may also be able to offer additional flexibility through their own policies and procedures.

You may make this decision depending on whether your employer has a policy to support carers, or whether you think they would be helpful to you.

There is no obligation to tell your employer about your responsibilities as a carer.

Before you talk to your employer, make sure you are aware of your rights and what's available.

As a working carer, you are likely to need a range of support. Possible options may include:

  • access to a telephone to check on the person you care for
  • flexible working – you have a right to request this
  • leave arrangements (paid or unpaid)
  • access to advice and information, for example on a staff website or carers’ network
  • an employee assistance programme, if your workplace has one

You can find detailed information on your rights and your employer's responsibilities from Carers UK.

Should I tell my colleagues that I'm a carer?

This is a personal choice. Colleagues can be very supportive, so if there is someone at work you trust, you may help it helpful to talk to them.

Carers gained new rights under the Equality Act 2010. The Act means that people can't be directly discriminated against or harassed because they care for someone.

This means that carers can't be treated less favourably or not allowed the flexibility they are legally entitled to.

Your employment status can affect your entitlement to statutory rights. If you are self-employed, on a short-term contract or employed through an agency you may not be covered by these rights.

If this applies to you, contact ACAS on 08457 47 47 47 for further advice.

Carers' rights at work

Your employer may already have procedures in place to support carers. You may find this information in your staff handbook or staff website.

It may also be useful to speak to your line manager, HR/personnel department, welfare officer or occupational health adviser, trade union, staff representative or colleagues.

As a working carer, you are likely to need a range of support - such as access to a telephone to check on the person you care for. An understanding employer can make all the difference to whether or not you feel you can seek support.

Possible support options include:

  • flexible working arrangements
  • leave arrangements (paid or unpaid at your employer's discretion, to cover intensive periods of care)
  • an employee assistance programme, if your workplace has one. This is a workplace-focused programme designed to resolve any problems you have that may affect your ability to do your job
  • access to advice and information, for example on a staff website or carers' network

Can I get time off in an emergency?

You have the right to take a 'reasonable' amount of time off work to deal with an emergency involving someone you care for.

You should not be victimised or dismissed by your employer for using this right. It is at your employer's discretion whether the leave is paid or unpaid.

You should find out how unpaid time off might affect your work rights, pension and your Working Tax Credit eligibility.

Situations where leave might be taken include:

  • an acute emergency, such as a fall, that results in an ambulance visit
  • a disruption or breakdown in care arrangements
  • if the person you care for falls ill
  • the need to make longer-term arrangements for the person you care for

You should find out how unpaid time off might affect your work rights, pension and your Working Tax Credit eligibility.

Should I leave work?

If you are thinking of leaving work altogether, think about whether it's right for you. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Could you manage with less money (and any effect on an occupational pension)?
  • How do you feel about the potential loss of independence, social contact and valuable skills?

If you don't want to leave work, there may be alternatives, such as:

  • part-time working or job sharing
  • working from home
  • paid or unpaid leave

There are also alternatives to resigning, such as:

  • a career break
  • voluntary redundancy
  • early retirement

Employers can get practical advice on supporting carers in the workplace by visiting Employers for Carers.

What about pensions?

When it comes to pensions, you should consider the following:

  • When will you and/or the person you care for receive a pension?
  • What will your pension(s) be worth?
  • Can you arrange a personal pension to suit your likely needs?

As a carer you may qualify for National Insurance credits, which help to maintain your National Insurance record and protect your entitlement to the basic State Pension and some other state benefits, even if you're not in paid employment.

Where else can I access support?

If you are a member of a trade union, ask them for help.

A local or regional union representative may be able to negotiate with your employer on your behalf and attend meetings with you.

If you are not in a union, there is a right to have a colleague attend certain types of meeting with you.

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