Working while caring

5 minute read

Working can give you income, satisfaction, interest and contact with other people. It can also give you a break from your caring role.

Working while caring for someone can be hard, but possible. It’s worth finding out about your rights and talking with your employer about your situation. Many companies are developing ways to better support carers.

You can also talk with other carers in our online carer forum, to get tips about how others have handled working and caring.

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Your rights at work

As a carer, you have rights in the workplace. It helps to know your rights so you can get the help you need to combine working with caring.

What your rights are

Your rights include:

  • not being discriminated against because you are a carer – you are protected by state, territory and Australian Government anti-discrimination laws. Your employer is not allowed to
    • treat you unfairly because you are a carer
    • harass you because you are a carer
    • dismiss you or threaten to dismiss you because you are a carer
  • asking for flexible working arrangements – you can ask your employer about arrangements that might make things work for you
  • leave – the National Employment Standards says that an employee can take leave to provide care and support to a family or household member who is sick, injured or has an unexpected emergency. You may be asked to provide evidence, such as a doctor’s certificate, when you want to take leave. You may be able to take

Getting help with working while caring

You can get more information about your rights as a carer from the Fair Work Commission, the Fair Work Ombudsman or Carers and Employers program.

Talking with your employer

It’s a good idea to talk with your employer about how to balance being an employee and a carer.

Many workplaces offer support for workers such as flexible working arrangements. More and more employers are recognising that supporting workers improves morale and productivity and helps to keep them in the job longer.

Remember, as a carer you have the right to ask for flexible working arrangements.

Who to talk with

In a large business, you can talk with human resources staff or your supervisor. In a small business, talk with the manager or owner.

What to talk about

You can ask your employer about arrangements that might make things easier for you. Some things that might help are:

  • leaving work on time
  • shorter hours
  • different hours, such as starting or finishing earlier or later
  • working from home for some or all of the time
  • working from a different office

Even if you don’t want special arrangements, it’s a good idea to tell your employer about your situation so that they understand if there is an emergency or if your caring affects your work.

You can tell them as much or as little as you want. You don’t have to go into detail about the person you care for, or their medical condition.

Before you talk with your employer

Before you talk with your employer, you can:

  • check your employment agreement to see if it includes any support for working carers
  • read about the rights and responsibilities of both yourself and your employer
  • talk with your colleagues – if any of them are in a similar situation, ask how they have managed it
  • think about what you want to ask for

The Fair Work Ombudsman website has information about requesting flexible working arrangements and balancing work and family commitments.

Reaching agreement

Your employer doesn’t have to agree to your suggestions about arrangements that might help you. But it's still worth asking – you don’t know what the answer will be and you may be able to negotiate a solution.

Getting help with negotiation

You should try to negotiate with your employer. Your workplace may have policies and processes to help find an answer that works for everyone. Carers and Employers program has information for both employers and employees.

If your employer doesn't agree

If you think your rights aren't being met fairly, you may be able to make a complaint at your workplace. You may be able to get support from a union representative or community service organisation.

If you can’t reach an agreement, you might need help with resolving disputes, or to take the matter to an independent mediator. A mediator is someone who is not involved in the problem, who can provide advice and help people to talk and agree.

You should only consider legal action as a last resort. You can talk with a legal service if you think you are not being treated fairly by your employer.