As someone who works as a carer, your focus is usually on the well-being of others. However, caring can be a physically, emotionally and financially difficult role. That’s why it’s important to know the carer’s rights you’re entitled to, so you can get support if you need it.
Whether you earn a salary as a professional care assistant or are an unpaid carer of a loved one, there are laws in place to protect you. This article will help you better understand your legal rights, the benefits you can access, and where to go for more help or advice.
What are my rights as a carer?
For nearly a decade, the Care Act 2014 has been in effect in England. This was designed to protect the rights of people caring for adults and adults in need of care. Parent-carers of children as well as young carers under 18 also have protection under the Children and Families Act 2014.
The carer’s rights you should know about are different depending on whether you are employed as a care assistant, or whether you’re looking after someone because they are elderly or disabled, but you are not paid or under contract to do so.
Legal rights for employed carers
If you earn a salary working in a care facility or are employed by a company or agency to care for people in their own homes, you should have a contract of employment that outlines some of the rights and benefits you can expect.
Everyone working in the UK is entitled to basic employment rights. For example, these rights include earning at least the National Minimum Wage, having paid holiday, rest breaks and a safe work environment, protection against discrimination, and not having to work more than an average of 48 hours per week, unless you choose to opt out of this.
As an employee, you will be qualified to receive sick pay, maternity or paternity pay. Additionally, you have the right to request flexible working. You are also entitled to a notice period before your employer can end your contract, and you are protected against unfair dismissal. This means you can take legal action if your employer ends your contract without enough notice or without good reason.
What do carers have the right to expect from their employers?
As a carer, you have the right to work in a safe and healthy environment. It’s your employer’s responsibility to make sure your workplace is secure and any risks to your health and wellbeing are taken care of. For example, this can be as basic as providing enough drinking water and toilet facilities. This can also mean making sure you have the right training to do your job safely too.
Additionally, you have the right not to be discriminated against in your workplace. This means that your employer can’t treat you differently because of your gender, race, age, sexual orientation, beliefs, or whether or not you’re married or have children.
If you feel you are working in unsafe conditions or have been discriminated against, you also have the right to report it.
Legal rights for unpaid carers
If you look after someone regularly because they are ill, disabled or elderly, you are a carer, even if you are not contracted or paid to provide care. As an unpaid carer, you are also entitled to some key carer’s rights.
If you are caring for someone in addition to another job, you have rights to help you balance your care work with your employment. For example, you have the right to request flexible working from your employer. This could mean working from home or working different hours to make it easier to care for someone or attend appointments. Although your employer isn’t required to approve it, they must take your request for flexibility into consideration.
If you’re caring for someone who is elderly or very ill, unexpected things can happen. The Employment Rights Act 1996 protects your right to take time off work for an emergency involving a dependant. The UK government is also currently considering a new law that would allow all employees the right to one week of unpaid carers’ leave.
Thanks to the Equality Act 2010, you also have the right not to be discriminated against or harassed in your workplace because of your care responsibilities. This means, for example, that an employer can’t refuse to offer you a job because you care for someone who is disabled.
The right to a carer’s assessment
Under the Care Act 2014, unpaid carers also have the important right to request a carer’s assessment. A carer’s assessment is a review of your personal circumstances, to see if your local council might be able to offer you extra help.
Caring for someone can have an impact on your physical and mental health, your work-life balance, finances and other relationships. The assessment will take all of these things into consideration.
If you qualify for help, the council will work with you to write a care and support plan. For example, you may be eligible for help with costs such as transport costs to appointments. You can also be supported if you need to take a break from caring. Your local authority may be able to arrange for someone else to look after the person normally in your care.
To get a carer’s assessment, you need to contact the social services team of your local council. Carers UK has created a helpful fact sheet outlining the process of a carer’s assessments.
State benefits for carers
As a carer, particularly if you have low or no income, you may be eligible for government benefits that can help. If you care for someone 35 hours or more per week, you may be entitled to Carer’s Allowance, which is a payment of £76.75 per week.
Carer’s Credit is another benefit to consider if you’re caring for someone at least 20 hours a week. This benefit is especially helpful if you’ve needed to stop working to care for someone. Carer’s Credit is a National Insurance contribution, which can help you make sure you don’t lose out on your State Pension or other social security benefits because of gaps in your NI record.
The government provides a range of additional benefits and financial support to carers, depending on your income and other circumstances. You can check what you might be entitled to by using their online calculator.
Help with carer’s rights: where to go for support
If you need more help with your rights as an employee or unpaid carer, Citizens Advice offers free and confidential support. Their services are available online, over the phone and in person. You can find your nearest Citizens Advice using the search function on their website.
You can also find local carer support services near you by searching the Carers Trust website.
You’re not alone
Being a carer is both demanding and rewarding. Whether it’s your full-time job or you regularly look after a loved one, it’s important to know that your rights matter. You’re not alone and support is here when you need it.
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