The ultimate juggling act: caring and working in the legal sector

The "Mind the caring gap" report (June 2024) reveals that 77% of carers working in the legal sector who responded to the survey said being a carer had impacted their mental health, and 70% said it had affected their physical health.

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Unpaid carers who provide care for family or friends with disabilities or long-term health conditions face significant challenges balancing their caring responsibilities with a job in the legal sector. This may affect their work, their personal lives and, for many, their mental health.

Some people suddenly become carers when someone in their family gets very sick or has an accident. For others it happens slowly, and they might not even notice they have become carers; this can be very common when people help elderly parents. Parents can also be unpaid carers when their child has additional needs. Additionally, you can be a carer for someone with mental health issues or addiction problems.

You can be a carer for your partner, your parent(s), your children, other family members, or a friend. Some people care for more than one person. You don’t need to live with the person you care for.

Carers help in many different ways, and each situation is unique. Common tasks include:

  • giving medication and taking people to medical appointments
  • helping with household chores
  • providing personal care
  • preparing food and other tasks in the home
  • offering companionship
  • handling paperwork and finances

These are all extra responsibilities that carers have to handle on top of their usual home life and their job in the legal sector.

Image of someone sorting pills in a weekly medication box. Image by Laurynas Me at Unsplash

Impact on mental health

77% of carers working in the legal sector who replied to the Mind the caring gap survey (2024) said that being a carer had impacted their mental health. 70% said it had affected their physical health.

Balancing the demands of work alongside caring responsibilities often creates a sense of exhaustion and stress, which can affect your performance and motivation at work. The constant juggling act between professional duties and caring duties can leave you feeling overwhelmed and lonely.

Impact on career progression

57% of carers who replied to the Mind the caring gap survey said that their career progression had been negatively impacted because they were a carer.

Limited career progression is something that affects many carers, not just those working in law, as backed up by research from Carers UK.

As a carer, you may regularly face disruption at work due to the additional tasks you need to do. Perhaps you need to time away from the office for medical appointments or time off for bouts of ill health (either the person you support or your own).

This may lead you to reduce to your working hours, change your role or even leave the legal sector completely.

Practical support

It’s important to get the support you need for both the person you care for and yourself, so you can stay physically and mentally well as a carer. Many benefits are means tested, but other support for unpaid carers is not.

  • Carer’s assessment - All unpaid carers are entitled to a carer's assessment under the Care Act 2014. This assessment helps to identify the support you need as a carer. It can help you to access various services. You need to ask your local authority (social services) for a carers assessment.
  • Carers centres and local support - There may be organisations close to where you live that can help. Carers centres offer expertise and practical support, including opportunities to meet other carers.
  • Needs assessment for the person your care for - This will help identify the specific support and services they require to improve their quality of life. You need to ask your local authority (social services) for a needs assessment. 
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Working in the legal sector and being a carer

Deciding whether to tell your employer that you are a carer is a personal choice. While transparency can lead to better support and understanding from your colleagues and managers, some people fear discrimination or being perceived as less committed to their work. It is up to you to decide what feels most comfortable and right for you.

If you let your workplace know that you are a carer you may be able to benefit from carer friendly initiatives including:

It makes business sense to support carers

Workplaces play a crucial role in supporting unpaid carers. Employers can create a supportive environment by offering flexible carer friendly working conditions and recognising the unique challenges faced by carers. Here are a few ways workplaces can support unpaid carers:

  • Flexible working

    This can significantly alleviate the pressure on unpaid carers. It could include: the ability to work from home, allowing flexibility for medical appointments, or being able to leave the phone on during work hours to respond to emergencies.

  • Better training

    Train managers to understand the needs of unpaid carers. Also, provide training for all staff to increase awareness, build a team of allies, and foster a supportive and inclusive work environment.

  • Raising awareness

    Recognise and raise awareness about carers, especially during events like Carers Week.

  • Openness

    Foster a culture of openness where unpaid carers feel comfortable sharing their situations without fear of discrimination.

    Proactively promote initiatives that benefit carers and encourage senior staff who are carers to talk about this openly at work.

Balancing caring and a legal career is tough. It affects the carer’s work, personal life, and mental health, often stalling career progress. Practical support, such as carer assessments and local resources, is essential.

Legal workplaces also play a vital role. While laws like the Carer's Leave Act and the Care Act 2014 offer support, it's the active involvement and understanding of employers that truly make a difference in the lives of unpaid carers.

Legal workplaces can help unpaid carers by offering flexible working options and fostering a culture of empathy and support. Encouraging senior leaders to openly share their experiences as carers can make the environment more inclusive. This approach helps retain skilled employees and promotes the wellbeing and mental health of their employees.

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