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Employment Rights for Carers

COVID-19 and employment rights

ACAS has some useful information about employment rights specifically during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Carers in Employment

New figures released for Carers Week in June 2020 show that an additional 4.5 million people in the UK become unpaid carers as a result of COVOID-19. This brings the total of unpaid carers up from 9.1 million, before the outbreak, to a huge new total of 13.6 million – one in four of all adults. Based on polling carried out by YouGov in May 2020, the research report details this massive increase and the impact on unpaid carers who are providing care to an older, disabled or ill relative or friend.

Carers UK also released ‘Caring Behind Closed Doors: 6 months on’ – a report published in November 2020, based on a survey of almost 6,000 unpaid carers.  This survey looked at the impact of caring on carers’ lives over the first 6 months of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Not only has Covid-19 added another estimated 4.5 million new unpaid carers to the 9.1 million carers identified pre-pandemic, it has also increased the amount of care that carers have to give. 81% of carers reported that they were providing more care than pre-pandemic, putting up their caring time from an average of 55 hours a week to 65 hours a week.  This increased level of caring responsibility has had a negative effect on carers’ lives, affecting their emotional and physical health, ability to work, and financial situations.

In addition research – conducted by the universities of Birmingham and Sheffield – was highlighted on Carers Rights Day in November 2019 by the Charity Carers UK and claims that two thirds (65%) of all adults can expect to care for a loved one in their lifetime. The research shows that of all unpaid carers, 53% are in paid work – 36% are in full time work and 17% are in part time work. Unpaid carers who have started caring since the start of the coronavirus outbreak are 29% more likely to be in work compared with unpaid carers who were already caring before the coronavirus outbreak. There are 2.8 million extra workers juggling work and unpaid care since the start of outbreak. One in ten workers has started providing unpaid care since the outbreak. This brings the estimated number of unpaid carers who are also in paid work to over 7 million across the UK, as previous research found that there were already 4.9 million people juggling work and unpaid care.  In total 26% of all workers are juggling work and unpaid care – one in four workers.

Discrimination at work

You are protected from discrimination because of your caring responsibilities.  For more information about taking action if you feel you have been treated unfairly at work because of your caring responsiblities see the Citizens Advice Discrimination at work pages.

Flexible working arrangements

Employees can legally apply for flexible working if they’ve worked continuously for the same employer for the last 26 weeks. It’s known as ‘making a statutory application.’

This right can be asked for, but employers do not have to grant requests for flexible working.

ACAS outlines the process on its website and gives information about what you can do to progress an application.

More information about flexible working 

Unpaid time off for emergencies

Carers have the right to take unpaid time off work to support the cared-for person in the case of an emergency – there is no requirement to have worked for an employer for a minimum amount of time.

More information on time off for emergencies

Employment Law can be complex and it is a good idea to get further advice and information – especially if you are considering requesting flexible working arrangements.

  • In some cases, large employers may have policies setting out these rights and how to apply for them – ask your employer or Human Resources department
  • Talk to your union if you are a member
  • Government advice is available on flexible working – you can find out how to go about applying and how to appeal if needed
  • Ask for advice from a carers support organisation
  • Contact Citizens Advice. You can find out more information on their website about employment rights or speak to an adviser
  • Contact ACAS  They offer an online helpline service, an automated system designed to give a straighforward answer and links to more information, or if you need more individual advice you canring the ACAS Helpline on 0300 123 1100 – open Monday to Friday 8am to 6pm.


A carer may be eligible for Government Benefits related to their caring role – find out more about these Benefits

Helpful services for carers
Recovery resources for professionals