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Musicians Who Are Unpaid Carers

Unpaid carers make huge contributions to families and communities throughout the UK, but what are carer’s rights, and how can they take care of their own health and wellbeing?

Last updated: 28 March 2024

A carer is someone who provides unpaid care and support to a family member or friend who has a disability, illness, mental health condition, addiction, or who needs extra help as they grow older. It isn’t someone who volunteers or is employed to provide support.

Not everyone thinks of themselves as having caring responsibilities or identify as carers, but there are musicians who have caring responsibilities for family and friends while they juggle their career in music, which can have an impact on their health and wellbeing.

Caring can be rewarding but also isolating

Caring can be one of the most important things an individual does, and the impact and challenges of caring should not be underestimated.

It’s really important that carers can access information and support about their rights and to look after their wellbeing.

This guidance is for anyone who looks after a family member or friend who has a disability, with mental or physical ill health, or who needs extra help.

Your rights as a carer

This can be complicated as many musicians may be self-employed, or work many different jobs. It’s important to understand your employment status and how it determines your rights. Members will find the MU’s guide to employment status useful.

Statutory rights apply to everyone, but employed musicians will have contractual rights which will be detailed in their contract of employment, staff handbook, HR policies, or letter of appointment.

Carers should note that statutory rights as an employee include:

  1. The right to request flexible working
  2. The right to time off in emergencies
  3. Protection from discrimination
  4. The right to parental leave

Charity Carers UK have led the campaign for Carer’s Leave for decades, and now that the Carer’s Leave Act 2023 will become law, employees will have the right to take unpaid leave from work to care for older, disabled or seriously ill relatives and friends, but what other rights do carers have?

The Care Act 2014 outlines the obligations of the local authorities regarding assessments and support, mainly for adults in need of care and support, and their adult carers. While there are some provisions for children who are moving to adult services, parent carers, and younger carers in the Care Act 2014, the main provisions for these groups are found in the Children and Families Act 2014.

Carers UK provide key guidance about the Care Act 2014 across the nations, as well as other sources of support on their webpage What are your rights as a carer?

If you spend a lot of time caring for someone you may be entitled to a benefit called Carer’s Allowance. Carer’s UK explain what it is, who can claim it, your responsibilities and how to apply.

If you have any concerns about your rights whilst working as a musician, please contact your regional MU office.

How to take care of your own needs whilst caring for someone

When caring for someone, looking after your own needs is important. Carer’s UK have created guidance about how to maintain your health and wellbeing whilst being a carer, covering taking breaks, sleep, and coping with the emotions that can come up whilst caring for someone.

Self-advocacy, where your own needs are listened to as well as speaking up for the person you are caring for, plays a big part in taking care of your health and wellbeing too. 

These self-advocacy guides from Carers UK are designed to help carers across the different nations in the UK to communicate their needs with professionals, understand their rights, and look after their wellbeing.

Helplines and other support

Carer’s UK have a helpline which provides information and guidance to unpaid carers.

This covers a range of subjects including:

  • benefits and financial support
  • your rights as a carer in the workplace
  • carers' assessments and how to get support in your caring role
  • services available to carers and the people you care for
  • how to complain effectively and challenge decisions.

They also have an online forum called Carers Connect which will be open to new members soon.

If you are employed you may find Employers for Carers useful, as their purpose is to ensure that employers have the support to retrain and empower employees with caring responsibilities.

If you’re employed in Scotland Carer Positive aims to encourage employers to create a supportive working environment for carers.

Carers Trust also works to support unpaid carers by providing support, advice and resources.