This paper challenges traditional definitions of work and leisure as separate concepts by suggesting that a space where individuals engage in employment (paid work) can, at the same time, be a space of respite (leisure) for employees who are also family caregivers. The research aims to better understand what caregivers perceive as ideal respite space, what that space means to them, how the space where employment takes place fits that ideal and what forces restrict caregivers' ability to engage with employment as a space of respite. The term space is used because a caregiver's presence in a particular space (inside or outside of a place) gives it meaning that is simultaneously social, political and emotional. We report on a qualitative intrinsic case study of primary caregivers who are both employed and providing care to relatives with dementia. Using a reflective iterative process, 12 participants were recruited and interviewed from two Canadian provinces in 2013/14. Using a non‐temporal view of respite facilitated the identification of employment as an important space for caregivers to experience effective respite. Although this connection has been noted by other scholars, our research goes beyond this to identify four forces that create challenges for caregivers who want to maintain engagement with employment as a space of respite. These forces are internalised socialisation, family and organisational pressures and government policy. In addition, this research is one of the first to suggest ways that caregivers resist these forces. In concluding remarks, we reflect on the limitations of the study and offer suggestions for further research aimed at elucidating the spatiality of caregiver respite and the complex and dynamic aspects of resistance.