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Working Parent Rights

As a working parent, juggling childcare, back to school, and work can be difficult, and employees may be concerned about managing these commitments. As an employer, it is important to understand working parents’ rights.  For example, what happens if an employee’s child is ill and they have to take a day off, or childcare falls through and they need to leave early to pick up their child from school?

Emergency time off to look after a child or dependents

Employees are allowed to take reasonable time off for emergencies, this would be for situations where the child is unwell and they are left without childcare, or they cannot attend childcare (for example, if they have something contagious like chickenpox).  This leave is only for emergencies, and where there is a sudden breakdown in childcare arrangements, not for planned time off for which the employee should have been able to make arrangements in advance.

How much time off?

There is no prescribed amount of time off an employee can take to deal with an emergency situation; they are allowed a ‘reasonable’ amount of time.  Generally, this would be for one or two days while they make alternative childcare arrangements. If the employee needs an extended amount of time off, more than a few hours or days, they can be asked to take the time as part of their holiday allowance or parental leave.

Is the employee entitled to be paid while they are off?

The employee is not entitled to be paid during this time off, unless the contract states otherwise, or if there is a general custom and practice of paying employees during this type of absence.

Parental leave

Employees with a child under the age of 18, have the right to take parental leave. This time off is generally unpaid unless there is any contractual entitlement to be paid.

Parental leave is taken to look after the child and their welfare. This will include things like spending time with or caring for them during school holidays or settling them into new childcare arrangements.

How much parental leave are parents entitled to?

Each parent can take up to 18 weeks of leave for each child and it can be taken up until their 18th birthday.  Employees cannot take more than four weeks per year, and the time must be taken in blocks of at least a week at a time, rather than as individual days.

Parental leave applies to the child, not the job. This means that if a new employee joins, any leave taken in their old job will remain deducted from their total 18 weeks per child.

Flexible working

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

Flexible working is working in a way that suits the employee, and this might be reducing their hours, working from home or making start and finish times more flexible to work around childcare.

Employers must consider all flexible working requests in a reasonable manner.    Before refusing the request, the employer should meet with the employee, and can only refuse a request if it fits within one of eight statutory business reasons.  Employees have the right of appeal, and ultimately can bring an employment tribunal claim if they are unhappy with the way that the employer handled the request, or if they believe the request to have been handled in a discriminatory way. 

To speak to a member of our employment team, telephone 01689 887887.


Although correct at the time of publication, the contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article. Please contact us for the latest legal position.