An employee who is a ‘carer’ for someone has a right to ask their employer to alter their work arrangements so that they fit in with their responsibilities as a carer. Whether or not an employer has to agree to the request depends on a number of issues such as whether the changes would make it impractical for the carer/employee to carry out their job properly.
A ‘carer’ is not only a person who is looking after a disabled spouse, parent, etc but can also be a parent who has to look after normal healthy children or a sick spouse or family member.
In a recent case a full time employee (employed under a 3 year contract) who was off work on maternity leave wanted to return to work on a part time basis because of the usual demands involved with having a new baby at home.
The court ruled that whilst the employer did not have to allow the employee to work part time in her existing job (because the nature of her work was such that it could not be done on a part time basis) , the employer was being unreasonable in refusing to offer the employee other part time work when there was other suitable part time work available within the company.
The court awarded the employee $33,600 for lost wages plus general damages of $5,000.
Clearly it is important that an employer carefully consider any such request from an employee and consider the ramifications of refusing any such request.