Flexible working for carers

Across the country, there are lots of carers who support family members, friends and neighbours.

During the pandemic, ‘informal carers’ (meaning they are unpaid) may well have been providing extra care, whilst holding down a job.  This might be because the person they are caring for hasn’t had access to the same level of support during COVID-19, so they have needed to provide more time and support. This can be particularly challenging for those carers balancing caring responsibilities with their job.

Earlier in the summer, a Bill was introduced to the House of Commons proposing an amendment that would mean employers would be required to make reasonable adjustments for employees with caring responsibilities. In much the same way that employers must provide reasonable adjustments for disabled employees, the principle underpinning the Bill is that those employees with caring responsibilities should also have access to adjustments.

The 2nd reading of the Bill is scheduled for mid-October. Were this Bill to be successful, carers might have access to workplace adjustments such as:

  • Flexible working hours. Due to caring responsibilities, a typical 9-5 working day might not be possible due to there being certain times of the day that care needs to be provided (e.g. meal times).
  • Remote assessments. If working from home, an assessment would be offered to make sure the working environment and equipment (chair, desk etc.) is suitable.
  • An employer providing clear instructions for things like new tasks and projects, and access to training where necessary (e.g. if using new IT platforms). This is so that caring responsibilities can still be managed alongside changing work responsibilities. 
  • An employer agreeing that regular medical appointments for the cared for person can be attended by the carer.

Flexible hours, being allowed to attend medical appointments, access to training & clear instructions, and physical adjustments to workspaces are common adjustments that are already available to disabled employees. It’s worth remembering that employers must also ensure disabled applicants can access adjustments throughout the job application process, be that changes to an application form, test, assessment centre or interview.

Edmund Lewis, AGCAS Disability Task Group, University of Westminster

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