My spouse has been diagnosed with cancer, what are my rights as a carer?

Your world has just been turned upside down. The small things that used to irritate you about life no longer bother you. You now want to focus, to care, to make this awful situation better, however you possibly can. One thing that will help is ‘being there’; driving to appointments, holding hands, speaking to doctors, waiting on the other side of the toilet door… To do that you need things to change. So how do you go about changing the status quo with your work? Because at this time, more than ever, you need a stable income to enable your partner not to have to worry about money so that they can solely focus on getting well again…

Although everyone these days has the legal right to request flexible working, carers have special protections from discrimination. Mainly from associative discrimination. This means that an employer cannot discriminate against you on the basis of you being associated with someone with a protected characteristic for an example; an illness, a sexual preference or a religion.

Normally, the process for requesting a change to your working hours is defined through a policy in your workplace, however, here are some tips to keep in mind when making your application to improve its chances of success:

  • Read the policy and follow the set out procedure to the letter. Certainly have an early informal chat with your manager to give them the heads up, but your priorities are not theirs so don’t rely on them to initiate the request.
  • Be clear to state that your request to change your hours is to accommodate your new caring duties. Make sure you also mention your spouse’s diagnosis and prognosis. The more information and transparency you offer can only improve your employer’s understanding of your situation and thus your chances of your employer accepting your request.
  • Include details of the specific dates and days of treatment. The length and the location of treatment and the Doctor’s overview of the side-effects and translate this information into what that means for you, your caring duties and your job.
  • Say if you believe you will need the change of hours for a temporary time or if you think that it might be a more permanent change.
  • Offer possible options or alternatives to your favoured change of hours. For example, coming in to the office and working longer days on non-treatment days or being available in other ways. Consider your annual leave allocation. Is it possible to use this up for caring duties or use it creatively to cover your obligations? Admittedly you will need to ensure you have good rest and are able to work and care, but holiday utilisation might prove an interim solution.
  • Pre-empt any refusal by your employer to your proposal by considering the reasons an employer has to refuse a flexible working request. These are;
    • The extra cost would damage the business
    • There would be a negative impact on customer service, quality or performance
    • Work cannot be reorganised among other staff
    • Additional staff cannot be recruited
    • A detrimental effect on performance
    • A detrimental effect on ability to meet customer demand
    • There is not enough work during the requested working times.
    • The business is planning changes to the workforce and flexible working would not fit with the plans.

The latter reason is certainly harder to pre-empt however, worth thinking about anything that you know is on the horizon.

  • Consider technology and what you might be able to achieve working from home or elsewhere. Particularly if travel from your normal place of work to home or the hospital or treatment centre is burdensome.
  • Speak to your team, if you have one, and ask if they have any ideas or suggestions or if they are able to help you out for a short time. If your colleagues are already on board it makes it harder for your employer to refuse your request.

We know how difficult a time this can be. The shock news, the family implications, the change in roles, the worry. Wishing you lots of love and best wishes and hoping your employer is flexible for you at this difficult time.

#caring #cancerdiagnosis #carersrights #hrsolver #hr #flexibleworking