What rights at work do I have as a carer?

What support could you get from your employer to balance work with caring responsibilities?


My mother-in-law has dementia. I’m struggling to juggle my full-time job with being her carer. What rights do I have at work?


Balancing work with caring responsibilities can be a challenge. You don’t have to tell your employer about your caring role, but it might help. 

You have some rights at work, and some employers offer extra support too.

Flexible working 

Everyone has the right to ask their employer for flexible working arrangements. This includes carers! 

Flexible working can include changes to what hours or days you work, or to where you do your job. 

Your employer doesn’t have to give you the changes you ask them for. But they do have to consider your request carefully. 

If they refuse it, they need to give a good business reason. 

From 6 April 2024, a new law in England and Wales means workers have the right to ask for flexible working arrangements as soon as they start a job. 

In Northern Ireland, you still need to have worked for your employer for at least 26 weeks (half a year) to have the right to ask for flexible working arrangements.

Time off in emergencies 

If your mother-in-law needs you to deal with an emergency, you can take a reasonable amount of time off work for it. 

This right applies to emergencies involving a ‘dependant’ – someone who relies on you for help. It could include them being ill or injured, or usual care arrangements breaking down. 

Your employer doesn’t have to pay you for this time off, but they can do. 

What about other times? 

From 6 April 2024 in Wales and England (but not in Northern Ireland), carers also have the right to take up to five days unpaid leave each year. 

This must be to provide or arrange care for a dependant who has long-term care needs. You’ll have this right from day one of working for your employer. 

Check your contract 

Some employers offer more than these basic legal rights. Check what your contract says and any policies that your workplace has. 

For example, there might be a specific carer’s policy. Or parts of the leave policy or flexible working policy might help. 

Your employer may be willing to agree something else that fits your specific needs. 

Equalities law 

You have the right not to be discriminated against because of your caring responsibilities. 

Discrimination might include passing you over for promotion or sacking you simply because you’re a carer. 

More help 

  • Carers UK has a lot of information about carers’ rights. 
  • Contact ACAS for support about employment issues in England or Wales. 
  • In Northern Ireland, contact the Labour Relations Agency
Your questions

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Dementia together magazine is for all Alzheimer's Society supporters and anyone affected by the condition.
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