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With people in the UK living longer than ever before, there are an increasing number of issues around the provision of care. Carers UK states that 3 in 5 people will end up caring for someone at some point in their lives and more and more, people need to provide care for relatives whilst maintaining their jobs.

According to the NHS workers who provide care to family members and others make up more than 12% of UK employees. However, recent research from Westfield Health and the CIPD found that only a third of employers have a policy in place to support working carers.

Who is a carer?

Many carers do not recognise themselves as carers and simply see themselves as fulfilling their role as a spouse, partner, parent, sibling or friend.  The Care Act 2014 defines a carer as an adult who provides or intends to provide care for another individual.  Anyone can become a carer and carers can come from all walks of life, all cultures and can be of any age.

Protection from discrimination

Someone with caring responsibilities is unlikely, in themselves, to be regarded as disabled by the law but carers can still benefit from protection under the Equality Act 2010.  Under the 2010 Act, carers may be protected against direct and indirect discrimination, harassment and victimisation by reason of being associated with someone who has a disability.  However, the duty to make reasonable adjustments under the Act only applies where an employee is disabled; it does not protect a non-disabled employee who is associated with a disabled person.

Support for carers

Carers will often not access formal services or take advantage of support that may be available yet acting as a carer can have a huge impact on a person’s life in terms of their finances, energy levels and general well being.  Clearly this can have a knock on effect on their work life too.  In order to retain skilled and valued employees who have caring responsibilities, employers should:

·         Introduce a formal carers’ policy;

·         Ensure that carers are aware of the legal rights they can rely on to manage or mitigate the impact of their responsibilities on their work/life balance (notably statutory rights in relation to flexible working, time off for dependents, parental leave and annual leave);

·         Consider whether the business is willing to look at any special leave options, including compassionate leave, unpaid extended leave, carers’ leave and the ability to make time up;

·         Ensure that managers are sympathetic to and supportive of those who have caring responsibilities, based on a shared understanding of the situation and its impact; and

·         Provide employees with opportunities to make use of broader support options, for example, employee assistance lines and support groups.

Given the ageing population in the UK and the changes to carers’ legal rights in recent years, it has become more important than ever for companies to make sure that they are aware of carers’ rights.

 To discuss this or any other HR issue call 01392 210700 or