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New rights will normalise flexibility at work

18 July 2014

Changes to employment law came into force in June 2014 that extend the right to request flexible working to more carers

Flexible workingIn response, we've updated our online information about flexible working, and produced a new edition of our guide, Supporting working carers, which you can download for free from our flexible working web page.


Prior to the change, only those who have children or caring responsibilities for older or disabled family members had the right to request flexible working – but with this extension, any staff member who has worked with their employer for more than 26 weeks will be able to request flexibility, for any reason.

Carers UK, along with employers we work with, have wanted the current definition of carers to be made simpler and to encompass more carers.

Carers UK estimates that around 100,000 more carers will have the right to ask for flexible working arrangements that will enable them to manage both work and caring responsibilities. Our research has shown that flexibility from an employer makes a big difference in terms of helping the carer, reducing stress and ill-health in the workplace, and increasing productivity gains for employers.

Requests can cover changing hours, times or places of work.  Flexi-time or part-time working are just two examples of working patterns that can constitute flexible working. Employers can only refuse requests for certain specified reasons and should deal with requests in a reasonable manner.

Heléna Herklots, Chief Executive of Carers UK said:

Some carers have been reluctant to request flexibility at work as they felt they were asking for special treatment. Now that all workers will have this right, we hope that workplace culture will grow even more accepting of staff requesting flexibility for a variety of reasons to balance work with different parts of their lives.

But this change isn’t just good for families. We know that the economy loses over £1.3 billion1 a year as a result of carers being forced to give up work to care, and employers pay the price in lost skills and experience. Providing support and flexibility for the 1 in 9 employees combining work and caring is good for business – improving productivity and staff retention and cutting the costs of recruitment and retraining.

If you think your employer should join our network of employers, Employers for Carers, which leads on best practice around supporting carers in the workplace, then contact Mary Edwards at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

1 Pickard, L. (2012) Public expenditure costs of carers leaving employment, London School of Economics

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