Employment Advice

Working parents – what are your rights?

As a working parent, juggling childcare, back to school, and work can be difficult, and you might be concerned about managing these commitments.

08 Sep 2022

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Esther Marshall

Esther Marshall

What happens if your child is ill and you have to take a day off, or childcare falls through and you need to pick up your child from school? Here we look at your rights as a working parent and what you are entitled to receive.

Time off to look after your child

If you are an employee, you are allowed to take time off for emergencies, for example, if your child is unwell and you have no childcare, or they cannot attend childcare (for example, if they have something contagious like chickenpox).

How much time off can you get?

There is no prescribed amount of how much time off you can take to deal with an emergency situation; you are allowed a ‘reasonable’ amount of time. However, if you need an extended amount of time off, more than a few hours or days, your employer may request you take the time as part of your holiday allowance or parental leave.

Will I get paid for being off?

Your employer is not obliged to pay you for this time off. If you are entitled to be paid for emergency leave, this will be a contractual, rather than statutory, entitlement. You should check your contract of employment to see if you are entitled to be paid.

Parental leave

Until your child turns 18, you have a right to take parental leave. This time off is generally unpaid unless you have any contractual entitlement to be paid.

When can I take parental leave?

You can take parental leave to look after your child and their welfare. This could include looking after them if they are off sick from school, spending more time with them, caring for them during school holidays or settling them into new childcare arrangements.

How much parental leave am I entitled to?

Each parent can take up to 18 weeks of leave for each child. This can be taken up until their 18th birthday.  You can take no longer than four weeks per year, and the time has to be taken in blocks of at least a week at a time, rather than individual days.

One thing to note is that your parental leave applies to your child, not your job. For example, if you get a new job, you do not revert back to your full parental leave entitlement, anything you have taken in your old job will remain deducted from your total of 18 weeks per child.

Flexible working

 All employees have a right to request flexible working. However, it may be particularly useful for working parents.

What is flexible working?

Flexible working is working in a way that suits you as an employee. This might be reducing your hours to spend more time with your children, working from home or making your start and finish times more flexible to work around childcare.

Your employer must consider all flexible working requests, and they must deal with them in a ‘reasonable manner’. If they refuse the request, they must write to you and provide business reasons for declining your request. If they have declined your request you may be able to challenge that decision in an employment tribunal, and you may wish to seek legal advice from an employment law expert.

M&P Commentary

Esther Marshall a Senior Associate Solicitor in Dispute Resolution said;

“Balancing your commitments as a parent and as an employee can be incredibly challenging. Thankfully, many employers recognise that the best way to retain valuable team members is to accommodate the last-minute changes of plan that come with being a parent. However, many employees are unaware that they are entitled to emergency and parental leave. If you feel that you have been denied your right to take leave, we can advise you as to the best way forward.”


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