Caring for elderly relatives: what rights does an employee have?

If you're having difficulties balancing the care of an elderly loved one with your work life, what options are available?

The provision of healthcare and social care for the elderly is an important issue for most individuals and remains a political hot potato.  With pressures on budgets and availability of services it is perhaps unsurprising that care responsibilities increasingly fall upon the shoulders of family members. 

What rights do employees have to time off work to attend to such responsibilities?

There is no current law which gives individuals a general right to time off work to care for relatives, save for emergency situations which are expected to be temporary or short term in nature.

An employee could, if they decide, use their annual leave entitlement to attend to caring responsibilities although for many, this will simply be insufficient to help with long term care needs and would, of course, reduce the employee’s capacity for a genuine rest break.

A longer term solution may be a flexible working request.  Such request can be made by any employee provided they have, at the time of the request, 26 weeks’ continuous service and have not previously made a flexible working request in the previous 12 months.  The employee does not have to give a reason for their request although it may be helpful to assist an employer’s understanding of their motivation to explain why flexibility is required.

An employee making a request should carefully consider and outline how they expect their work to be undertaken whilst working flexibly in order to satisfy their employer that the arrangements will not undermine their output.  Changes such as flexible hours or home working are typical changes an employee might request but there is no restriction on what and employer and employee may agree to change.

Whilst an employer is not bound to accept a flexible working request, they are required to properly consider a request and can only refuse a request on specific grounds.  With the ways in which people work continually evolving, forward thinking and proactive employers will look at ways to accommodate employees to ensure they retain the best, and most motivated, staff.

If you're interested in any of the topics raised in this article, or for further information, please contact Maz Dannourah. Alternatively, you can call to speak to one of the team on 0115 9888 777.


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