Worker rights that can make caring for your family easier.

“A growing number of individuals face the challenge of caring for dependents alongside meeting their responsibilities at work, yet few understand the employment rights available that could help them strike a better work-life balance,” explains Louise Attrup, employment partner at Debenhams Ottaway, based in St Albans.

“Our priority is arming workers, and employers, with the knowledge and personalised solutions they need to avoid workplace disputes and discover a way they can put family first without compromising their job.”

As one of the region’s most dynamic and sought-after employment lawyers, Louise is dedicated to delivering friendly and expert advice surrounding HR policy. Below she reveals what rights workers have to make caring for dependents more manageable.

Q: Can I take time off work to care for my family?

The short answer is yes, and there are several ways you can go about doing it. Anyone responsible for looking after a dependent (this could be a partner, young child, or ageing parent) is likely entitled to time off work to help them manage their duty of care.

Great British Life: Louise Attrup, employment partner at Debenhams OttawayLouise Attrup, employment partner at Debenhams Ottaway (Image: Debenhams Ottaway)

Q: What is the club sandwich generation?

This term refers to the increasing population of workers in their 50s and 60s who provide care for an ageing parent, their adult children and a minor (most likely a grandchild). Rising state pension ages and increasing living costs can make retiring an impossibility, leaving them to juggle working with the needs of their family, which brings financial and emotional challenges.

In 2016, due to the growing numbers of this generation, discussions about paid grandparental leave began, which meant extending shared parental leave following the birth of a child to include grandparents. However, plans were subsequently shelved.

Some employers, like Saga, introduced a similar benefit voluntarily, awarding one week of paid grandparental leave to employees. This was after registering that almost a quarter of their working grandparents were finding it difficult to balance childcaring responsibilities and work. However, it’s not required that every employer do this, which is where understanding your other legal rights can help.

Great British Life: The club sandwich generation refers to workers in their 50s and 60s who care for an ageing parent, their adult children and a grandchild under 16The club sandwich generation refers to workers in their 50s and 60s who care for an ageing parent, their adult children and a grandchild under 16 (Image: Getty)

Q: What existing policies can help employees better manage their care responsibilities? 

There are some work entitlements that employees in this position can explore, including:

1. Adopting a home or hybrid working routine – Lots of employers now offer remote working options which can make managing a dependent’s care much easier. If you’re a home worker, it’s important to understand you generally can’t be called back to the office without consultation first, and a ‘return to the office’ policy could be discriminatory. If you have any doubts about a contractual change, seeking advice from an employment law solicitor can provide reassurance.

2. Sabbaticals – If you’re dealing with a longer-term emergency, then taking an extended period off unpaid could help you cope. Although not every employer offers such an arrangement, it’s worth checking with HR first.

3. Flexible working requests – After working at a company for six months, employees can request a permanent change to their working pattern that may better suit their routine. In 2024, new laws will entitle two of these requests to be made per year, give employers a shorter response time to make the decision and require discussions to be held with employees first, before a final call is made. These requests can be denied, but if for any reason, you feel an unfair judgement has been reached, perhaps due to discriminatory reasons, you can consult a legal professional for guidance.

4. Time off for dependents – Employees have a statutory right to take emergency unpaid leave when dealing with illness or disruptions to a dependent’s care. These absences will be unpaid but should be allowed. If for any reason an employee is subject to disciplinary action following such an instance, it could be a breach of the law and they should seek legal counsel.  

Q: What is the new proposed carers leave law and how can it help?

This is a new right to time off which will likely be in force from summer 2024. It entitles workers the right to one week’s unpaid annual leave to look after dependents with long-term health or age-related issues. It aims to ease the stresses of those balancing work with care responsibilities. More details about the act are to follow, at which point we can advise both workers and employers how to enact it in the workplace with minimal disruption.

Great British Life:

Q: How can Debenhams Ottaway help soothe matters concerning carers’ employment rights?

We provide advice and a sounding board for workers and businesses when these topics arise and where clients are seeking flexible solutions that prevent costly and disruptive problems at work.

Possessing over 20 years of experience, no aspect of employment law is unfamiliar to me. I’ve worked with all manner of workplace disputes, such as grievances, disciplinaries and Tribunal complaints.

By delivering clear, pragmatic, and friendly advice, I’m able to help employers draft relevant HR policies and navigate evolving legislation and enable employees to better understand their position and feel empowered to make their own decisions.

Our team can help ensure a harmonious workplace that champions the importance of hard work, but not at the expense of personal lives and the needs of the family, which sometimes must come first.

For more information, visit

Contact Louise Attrup at or call 01727 735663.