In the Equality Act 2010, there are nine protected characteristics that cover age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, and sex.
We think that caring, unpaid, for disabled, chronically ill or older relatives or friends who need support is missing. Carers UK wants to see caring become the 10th protected characteristic.
Don’t carers already have rights under the Equality Act 2010?
Yes, Section 13 covers discrimination by association. This provision is important, but the law is not clearly written and understandable. It is also not as direct at the nine protected characteristics which are clearly stated.
What’s the evidence that this is needed?
Carers have given us strong evidence that they do not feel that there is a level playing field. They feel invisible, overlooked, and discriminated against. When applying for jobs, equality monitoring forms do not ask whether someone has unpaid caring responsibilities. There is no direct requirement for simple reasonable adjustments for carers in the workplace. Carers say that this would make a difference.
Carers face additional challenges as a result of caring which are often hidden
This would include, for example, where care and support from the NHS focusses on the patient only and does not involve carers, consider carers’ need for advice, or for services to be delivered in a particular way to support their caring role. In the workplace carers also face additional challenges, and equalities monitoring often does not ask whether someone has caring responsibilities.
What has Carers UK done about this so far?
Carers UK raised this during the passage of the Equality Act in 2010. More recently, we added this in our calls for carers during the 2019 General Election – for a future Government to make caring the 10th protected characteristic.
In 2020, carers gave us evidence about how they were discriminated against. A St Georges House report including influential leaders made this a key recommendation in their report. Based on the evidence from carers, this was a key recommendation in our Caring Behind Closed Doors reports in April and October 2020. Our carer members gave the work a big thumbs up at our Members Conference in October 2020 - quite simply, carers want to be treated equally.
What is Carers UK doing next?
We launched our ambitious new strategy, Vision 2025, earlier in 2021, which will take us to our 60th anniversary.
A key plank of our work is across three strategic pillars, Equality, Support and Recognition, is our goal to secure caring as the 10th protected characteristic. We will be publishing carers’ stories and evidence, working with others to look at how this would work in practice. We are looking for examples of practice where this is being implemented and would welcome any examples. We are also asking other organisations to support us and work with us.
If you are interested in supporting this or want to know more, please contact email@example.com