Human Resources

Caring for carers

This caring for carers guidance outlines the support available to employees who have a caring responsibility so that they can balance work with caring commitments and continue to be effective in their role.

Who is a carer?

A carer is a person who provides a substantial amount of unpaid care on a regular basis for another individual or a person who provides more occasional support to cope with changes in circumstances or health of another individual.

The University recognises that a carer can be a spouse, parent, sibling, child or other dependent and could be living in the same home as the person being cared for or further away.


The University appreciates that caring places demands on employees and at times it may be difficult for them to combine work and caring responsibilities.

Therefore the University will adopt the following principles:

  • To give sympathetic consideration to requests for support from those who have caring responsibilities, based on a shared understanding of the situation and its impact at work
  • To view the making of requests for support as acceptable and ensure that no one is treated unfairly because of their caring responsibilities
  • To handle requests for support with discretion and tact

Policies to support carers

A range of University policies can be used to help support employees who need time off to care for relatives or dependents either on a short or longer term basis:

Flexible Working

Flexible working usually involves requests for permanent changes to working patterns but it is also possible to ask for temporary or rolling requests to be considered to help carers through difficult situations.

For example:

  • A reduction in hours could be adopted for a 6 month period initially to allow a Carer to have more time for caring responsibilities. The arrangement could be reviewed after the initial agreed period and either extended or concluded depending on a Carer’s circumstances.
  • Annualised hours could be adopted to allow a Carer to fulfil an agreed number of hours at work over a period of time, but allowing periods of time to be taken off to fulfil caring responsibilities.

The above are examples that have been adopted within the University. Other options can be explored with HR in the first instance.

Parental Leave

If a carer needs time off to care for their child up to the age of 18 the Parental leave policy may be of assistance.

Provided the parent has one year’s service he or she may take up to four weeks unpaid leave a year to care for a child. (Up to 18 weeks in total.)

Time off for Dependents

Time off for dependents can be given to help a carer cope with the immediate impact of emergency situations such as a child falling ill at school or a parent having an accident and needing medical attention.

The University provides up to 10 days’ paid leave per calendar year (pro rata for part time employees) to help employees cope with unforeseen problems affecting people that they have responsibility for.

Special and Other Leave

In certain circumstances employees may apply for special leave to cope with difficult or unusual situations not covered by other policies.

This might include compassionate leave or bereavement leave.

Employees should speak to their line manager and/or HR for advice but all requests will be treated with sensitivity.

Other support available

The following services and groups can be contacted for emotional support or informal advice:


The multi-faith team of chaplains and belief contacts is available to offer sensitive, impartial support in any situation.

Counselling service

This is a free confidential service for staff providing an opportunity to discuss problems or situations that are causing concern or distress.

Local Networking Groups

Some areas of the University have local networking groups where carers can offer mutual support and exchange experiences.

Please contact your local HR team to find out if there is a networking group in your location.

Further information

External advice and support can be found at:

Carer events

Information about events and training in Edinburgh and the Lothians such as; falls prevention, stroke awareness, understanding dementia, understanding finance and benefits


A website providing resources and information for carers in Edinburgh and the Lothians.

Power of attorney

Please note there are legal differences depending on whether a person lives in Scotland or other parts of the UK.