Six million people provide unpaid care for adult dependants and three million do so whilst balancing paid work. Currently, one in five people give up work in order to care full-time.
Carers at work Every year, over 2 million people become carers, some overnight, some gradually Daily, many employees take on new caring responsibilities that may impact on work The numbers of carers is set to grow from 6 million to 9 million in the next 30 years The peak age for caring is between 45 and 64 – when many employees will have gained valuable skills and be employed in senior positions
The economic case Employers need to widen their recruitment pool at the same time that society will see an increase in the need for care. Future work predictions show that the economy will need an extra 2 million people in the next 20 years, only a quarter of whom will be school leavers. A recent TUC report argues that in order to achieve full employment and economic growth the govt should focus on getting into employment the 2 million people not in work but who want a job – half a million of these are carers.
Working carers’ concerns being able to work more flexibly letting others down – colleagues, their manager, customers, the person they are caring for, other family members, etc telling their manager or colleagues the nature or extent of their caring responsibilities being seen as not able to cope if they ask for help finding quality support services geared to their needs or those of the cared for person managing a demanding caring role alongside work responsibilities deciding whether to resign or take a period of leave towards the final phase of the cared for person’s illness
Existing Carers’ Rights 1995 - Carers (Recognition & Services) Act introduced the concept of carers’ assessments 1999 - Employment Relations Act gave carers the right to unpaid emergency leave and extended parental leave 2000 – Carers and Disabled Children Act extended carers’ rights to include support services via direct payments/vouchers 2004 – The Carers (Equal Opps )Act takes into account the carer’s needs in relation to work, training etc
Work & Families Act 2006 Extends paid maternity/adoption leave from 6-9 months Fathers have the right to take up to 6 months additional paternity leave if mother returns to work New measures to help administer leave and pay Measures to enhance communications during maternity leave Extends right to request flexible working to carers of adults
Work and Families Act: definition of a carer Someone who cares for, or expects to care for: The person they are married to or who is their partner or civil partner Someone who is a close relative (including parent, parent in law, siblings, uncles, aunts, grandparents, and step relatives) Someone who falls into neither category but lives at the same address as the carer
The applicant making a request to work flexibly must Be an employee with a contract of employment (agency workers or members of the armed forces are not eligible) Be the carer of an adult as previously defined Have worked for their employer for 26 weeks continuously at the date that the application is made Not have made another application to work flexibly under the right during the past twelve months
The right to request flexible working An application to work flexibly must be taken seriously by the employer A right to request, not an automatic entitlement Employer has the right to refuse Request is for a permanent change Employee can only request change in working arrangements once in 12 months Not intended for short-term needs
Flexible options 1.Flexible working time (flexi-time, compressed hours etc) 2.Flexible working place (home or other ‘remote’ working) 3.Flexible/variable working hours (part-time, job-share, term-time etc)
Your request to work flexibly must be in writing and state That you are eligible The working pattern you would prefer Any effects there might be The date when the new working pattern would begin Whether or not a previous request has been made and if so, when
When your employer receives your request to work flexibly they must Check your eligibility to make a request Agree to the request in writing or arrange a meeting to discuss it within 28 days Let you know of their decision and your right to appeal in writing within 14 days of holding the meeting
If your request is refused and you want to appeal You must write to your employer telling them you want to appeal They must arrange an appeal meeting within 14 days of receiving your appeal request Your employer must inform you of their decision in writing within 14 days of holding the appeal meeting
You have the right to be accompanied by a fellow worker or trade union representative at the initial meeting and at the appeal meeting
An employer can refuse the request on the grounds of Burden of additional costs Detrimental effect on ability to meet customer demand Inability to reorganise work Inability to recruit additional staff
Grounds for refusal contd Detrimental impact on quality Detrimental impact on performance Insufficiency of work during periods when the employee proposes to work Planned structural changes
What if you are refused the application at appeal stage?
There are a number of options including: Informal discussions – there could be a simple misunderstanding of procedure or facts which could be resolved by an informal route Use of an employers internal grievance procedure Assistance from a third party – eg. trade union Ask ACAS to help find a solution
When agreement cannot be reached other options are If both parties agree the ACAS Arbitration Scheme can be used to try and resolve the dispute Complaint to an Employment Tribunal (There are three month deadlines to present your complaints to either of the above from the date that the employer’s decision is notified)
Employers can support staff who are carers By respecting confidentiality By establishing what the carers needs may be By drawing up a carer’s support plan By providing a supportive environment In small firms/teams, multi-skilling, good communication and team working provide effective cover if carers have unexpected emergencies Paid leave (for emergency or scheduled caring can reduce staff turnover and absence, cutting employment costs. It is rarely abused and increases individuals loyalty and commitment
Carers value Recognition of their role Peace of mind A chance to talk through the issues and consider their own needs A sense of shared responsibility, particularly where any support offered is on a regular basis
As work/caring needs change build in regular review dates for new work arrangements discuss any necessary adjustments with the employee and anyone else who will be affected by the changes make sure there is good communication within the whole team have a back-up plan in case of emergencies
A win-win for employers “Stress related absence has been reduced by 26% through flexible working alone” “The average increase in productivity for flexible workers is 21% - worth at least £5-6 million on the company bottom line” “Retaining carers through support or special leave arrangements represents a saving to the company of about £1 million a year” “The cost of recruiting is incomparable to the cost of 2-3 days emergency leave”
A win- win for working carers “I personally go that extra mile for them because I appreciate what they are doing for me” “I think management realise that they are getting better production from us…. We all work bettwe when we are here” It makes for a happier workforce and people can come to work with an easy mind”
Next steps What can we do to help working carers?