Employment Rights as a Carer and Associative Discrimination

16 November 2017

If you are looking after someone who is disabled or elderly you are given protection under the Equality Act 2010. This means you cannot be subjected to direct discrimination or harassment because of your caring responsibilities. This is because you are considered as being 'associated' with someone who is protected by the law because of their disability or age.

Direct discrimination is where you are treated less favourably than someone else because you are caring for a disabled or elderly person. Some examples are:

  • Being refused a job due to your caring responsibilities
  • Being treated less favourably than your colleagues due to your caring responsibilities.

It does not make a difference whether it is your employer or colleagues who are treating you unfairly, you’re entitled to feel safe and supported at your workplace.

Although carers are protected from being discriminated against for being associated with a disabled person, the right to have your employer make reasonable adjustments in the workplace only applies to the disabled person, not to the carer. This means that your employer does not legally have to make adjustments to your working hours or the nature of your role to accommodate your caring responsibilities.

A method you can use to try and alter your working arrangements, either temporarily or permanently, would be to make a flexible working request.

What is Flexible Working?

Flexible working can include:

  • Altering your working days or hours
  • Allowing you to finish earlier or start later
  • Working from home
  • Job sharing.

Each carer’s job and caring responsibilities are going to be different, so will require different changes to their working arrangement. To be able to apply for flexible working you must have worked for your employer for at least 26 weeks and you can only make one application for flexible working in any 12-month period. Although an employer is under a duty to consider your request they can decline to allow the flexible working if they have a good business reason.

If you are having difficulties working in conjunction with your caring responsibilities it is important to raise this with your employer and request a copy of any internal policy or procedure they have regarding flexible working.

There is a formal procedure for requests, called ‘a statutory application’, which you must use if your employer does not have their own internal procedure.

When making a statutory application it is advisable to explain your reasons for making the request although you do not have to give full details of your personal circumstances or reasons if you do not want to.

A statutory application has to be in writing and include prescribed information. Once an application has been submitted to an employer they have up to 3 months to consider it and reach a decision.

If your application is accepted you should receive written confirmation and an updated contract of employment.

If your application is refused your employer should explain the reason why. This has to be a valid business reason. If your employer has an appeals process you can utilise this.

You can also take the matter to an Employment Tribunal. To do this you first need to contact ACAS to begin ACAS Early Conciliation within 3 months of receiving the rejection.

Please be aware you can only appeal if you feel that the matter was handled unreasonably or that the decision was unfair.

If you feel you have experienced discrimination as a result of being a carer – for example, if you have missed out on a promotion, there are a number of different options available.

More articles