Sole carer but live 200 miles away

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My mother has just been diagnosed with NHL and is about to start 6 rounds of chemo. My problem is that I am her only relative, I live 200 miles away and my workplace can only offer basic 5 days emergency carers leave without me going off sick myself (in which case there are generous sick leave terms). Is it legitimate to go to the GP to ask for time off to care for her as she is so far away? 

  • Hi  

    Thank you for contacting us here at Macmillan.  My name is Rachel and I am a Work Support Advisor on Macmillan’s National Support Line.  My team provides guidance on your rights at work if you are affected by cancer.

    I am so sorry to read of your mother’s diagnosis.  It must be incredibly tough trying to manage working and planning for her care, especially with the distance involved. I would like to provide you with some information specifically about your role and rights as a carer but recognise that you may also have some questions in relation to care in general.  If you would like to explore who may be able to support you and your mother with her ongoing care, our team of Information and Support Advisors would be glad to advise.  They are also available to provide space for you to talk if you should need it.  It is so important of course that you look after your own health and wellbeing.  They can be contacted on 0808 808 0000, options 1 and 1 again; via email or using our webchat service.

    Balancing work and caring can be challenging, and carers do have some rights in the workplace which are as follows:  

    Providing they have 26 weeks continuous service; carers have the right to ask for flexible working and when the formal process is followed, carers have the right to make 1 request per annum and can mean a permanent contractual change.  Your employer may be open to a discussion about a temporary, informal arrangement to help whilst your mother completes her treatment.    It is important to note however, that whether the arrangement is formal or informal, the employer does not have to agree to it if the arrangement adversely affects their organisation. 

    It could be worthwhile exploring whether a flexible working arrangement either formal or informal might suit your circumstances; allowing you to continue working whilst providing the care your mother needs; either short or longer term.  Would it be possible for example, to work from home or your mother’s home whilst you are with her?

    Carers also have the right to take a reasonable amount of time off for emergencies to deal with the person they are caring for (carers don't have a statutory right for this to be paid but may have a contractual one).   This is for occasions where you might have to leave work suddenly to deal with the needs of the person you are caring for, rather than for planned appointments. 

    It sounds from your enquiry, like you have investigated whether there are any specific policies for carers with your employer and have been told that you are entitled to five days’ emergency leave only.  It is not clear from your message whether this would be paid or unpaid, so is worth checking.  Where there is no right to paid time off, some people might choose to use annual leave, work back any time taken off, or take unpaid leave.

    If working is incompatible with your own health, you could speak to your GP with a view to taking some time off work on sick leave to travel to your mother and take care of her.  It will be important of course to have an awareness of your employer’s sickness absence policy and ensure that this is followed. 

    If you are in a union, it might be useful for you to get in touch with them to understand how you can be supported.

    I would also like to make you aware that the Equality Act 2010, if you live in England, Scotland or Wales or Disability Discrimination Act 1995, if you live in Northern Ireland, protects carers from discrimination by association, as the person they care for is disabled due to their diagnosis. 

    If you find you need to take unpaid leave or sick leave and there is an impact on your income, it may be worthwhile speaking to our Welfare Rights Team who can explore any financial support which may be available to you.  They can be contacted between 8am and 8pm Monday to Friday and 9am until 5pm Saturday and Sunday on 0808 808 0000, options 1, 2 and 2; via email or using our webchat service.

    I hope you have found this information useful. Please do contact us again if there is anything else we can help you with.

    Regards

    Rachel, Work Support Advisor 

    Remember you can also speak with the Macmillan Support Line team of experts. Phone free on 0808 808 0000 (7 days a week, 8am-8pm) or by email.