Carers deserve flexibility at work


Carers are often the unsung heroes who devote their time to the needs of other people. Many have to juggle full time jobs whilst looking after family members who are sick or require assistance with everyday life.

It is estimated that 1 in 7 UK employees have caring responsibilities outside of work, but what many who offer care to others do not know that they have the right to request flexible working arrangements. Parents with young or disabled children have had the right to request flexible working arrangements for a few years now, but in August 2007 the law was extended to include anyone who cares for adults.

The recent European Court of Justice decision in the case of Coleman v Attridge Law has broadened the scope of the protection of the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) 1995 to cover carers in certain situations as well as disabled people.

Ms Coleman was her disabled son’s primary carer and suffered unfair treatment from her employer including abusive and insulting comments concerning her son and herself. She was also denied the option of flexible working hours in order that she could provide the care her son needed.

The DDA currently states that the discrimination only applies to an employee who is disabled. Ms Coleman successfully argued that disability discrimination should not be restricted to those who are themselves disabled, but should in certain circumstances cover anyone caring for a disabled person.

Hopefully this decision case, along with the right for carers of adults to request flexible working, will help more carers be treated fairly at work.

This article was written by David Brown, Associate – Employment Law Team.

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