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Can I take planned carers leave from work to look after my disabled brother/sister?

Yes. Check if your employer has a policy around planned carers leave, as you may be entitled to a certain amount of paid leave (meaning you don’t need to use your annual leave entitlement).

If they don’t, you may be entitled to unpaid leave. In England, Wales and Scotland the Carers Leave Act 2023 (comes into force 6th April 2024) entitles you to take planned leave to take care of your disabled brother or sister. There is currently no equivalent law in Northern Ireland.

Here are some key points about eligibility for planned carers leave under the carers leave act:

  • You can take leave “to give or arrange care for a ‘dependant’ who has a disability”
  • You don’t need to live with your brother or sister to take carers leave, they just need to “rely on [you] for care”
  • You don’t need to provide proof that you’re a carer or that your brother or sister is disabled

Here are some key points about taking planned carers leave:

  • You can take up to your usual working week each year (e.g. if you usually work three days a week, then you can take three days a year)
  • You don’t have to take it all at once. It can be taken in half or full days
  • If the request is for a half-day or a day, you need to give at least 3 days notice. If it’s more than this, you need to give double the amount of notice for the time you intend to take (e.g. if you want to take 2 days, you need to give at least 4 days notice)
  • If you have more than one disabled brother/sister you can still only take one week of carers leave in total and you’d need to share this between them
  • You can use the leave to give care (such as attending a hospital appointment) or arrange care (such as liaising with social workers and managing a care package)

Find out more here.

Am I a sibling carer?

Some adult siblings think of a ‘carer’ as a family member who lives with their brother or sister and helps with:

  • Washing and dressing
  • Making meals and drinks
  • Cleaning and laundry

But the definition of a carer is actually much wider than this. Think about what you do for your brother or sister that you wouldn’t do for an adult without a disability. This might include:

  • Answering the phone to your brother five times a day when he calls for support or because he is lonely
  • Reading through bills with your sister and helping her to understand them
  • Advocating for your brother’s needs at meeting with a social worker
  • Phoning a hospital when your sister is admitted to let them know how she prefers to communicate

You do not need to live with your brother or sister to think of yourself as their carer. Your brother/sister might live:

  • In residential care
  • In supported living
  • With your parent(s) or other family members
  • By themselves, with a housemate or with a partner

Recognising the role that you play in your brother or sisters life can help you to access more support for yourself. Benefits of recognising yourself as a sibling carer:

  • Protection from discrimination under the Equality Act 2010*
  • Right to request flexible working hours and to have time off in emergency situations
  • Recognition of your role within other services. Some GP services allow sibling carers and their disabled brother or sister to visit the surgery at the same time to avoid two trips
  • Having a carers assessment, to look at the support you need to continue your caring role
  • May be entitled to carers allowance, depending on the number of hours you provide care

*England/Wales/Scotland. In Northern Ireland you are protected under the Human Rights Act and Section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act. This requires public bodies to promote equal opportunities for carers.