A carer is anyone, including children and adults who looks after a family member, partner or friend who needs help because of their illness, frailty, disability, a mental health problem or an addiction and cannot cope without that support. The care they give is unpaid. NHS England Definition.

A staff carer is a member of staff who has significant caring responsibilities that have a substantial impact on their working lives. Staff carers are also sometimes called working carers.

Often staff carers don't identify with the term "carer" and just see that they are looking after a loved one. In fact, the charity Carers UK have found that it takes, on average, 2 years to self-identify as a Carer. However, as in the definition, if the person they are looking after can't cope without their help they are indeed a carer and as such are entitled to support.

Sometimes the first step of that support can be helping them to realise that they are a carer.

There are many different conditions linked to unpaid carers, this is not an exhaustive list, but shows some examples:



Parkinson’s disease

Motor Neurone disease


Physical disabilities

Lung disease

Heart disease

Covid and long Covid

Hearing loss

Sight loss          

Substance misuse






ME and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome


Mental health conditions

Palliative care

As well as there being variety in the conditions that people are caring for, there is also huge diversity in the types of care they may be providing.

Carers may be supporting with:

  • Practical tasks such as cooking, housework, shopping and driving.
  • Physical care, such as helping someone out of bed, manual handling.
  • Emotional support, such as talking to someone who is distressed.
  • Personal care, such as helping someone wash, dress or use the toilet.
  • Managing the family budget and paying bills.
  • Collecting prescriptions and medical supplies.
  • Helping to give medicine or treatments.
  • Supporting other family members emotionally.

  • Looking after brothers or sisters or family members.

  • Providing care alongside professionals, such as district nurses.

  • Helping someone communicate with friends, family or professionals.

  • Organising and attending appointments.

  • Taking on Power of Attorney providing end of life support.

  • Dealing with unexpected bereavement.

Caring responsibilities could take anything from a couple of hours a week to 24 hours a day but as the definition states, if the person you are caring for cannot cope without your support, you are a carer.

Caring for a loved one has a huge impact on peoples' lives, but it is often a hidden issue that is not recognised, discussed, or planned for in the workplace.   For a variety of reasons, many people don’t disclose the extent of their caring responsibilities which multiplies their challenges further still.