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A study undertaken by the Modern Families Index Report showed that of the 2,750 parents surveyed, 69% of fathers said they would consider their childcare arrangements before they took a new job or promotion, 47% to want to downshift into a less stressful job and 38% would be willing to take a pay cut to achieve a better work-life balance. Perhaps this report is not that surprising but it does continue to highlight the importance of work-life balance many employees are seeking.

With that in mind we thought it might be useful to set out some of the family friendly rights available to employees. Sitting alongside the more commonly known rights such as maternity leave, paternity leave and adoption leave, there is also: 

FLEXIBLE WORKING

Whilst the statutory right to request flexible working was extended in 2014 to all employees who have at least 26 weeks’ continuous service, it does perhaps remain a reality that most requests for flexible working are made by employees who wish to work more flexibly to suit caring responsibilities such as childcare needs.

By way of reminder, the employee triggers the procedure by making a written request. An employer then has the three-month decision period (which can be extended by agreement) within which to consider the request, discuss it with the employee (if appropriate) and notify the employee of the outcome.

An employer must deal with the application in a reasonable manner and there are eight business reasons for which an employer can reject a flexible working request.

An eligible employee may request a change to their employment terms if the change relates to:

  • A change to the hours they work.
  • A change to the times when they are required to work.
  • A change to the place of work (as between their home and any of the employer's workplaces).

There is also an ACAS Code of Practice on flexible working.

It is important with flexible working requests not to have a knee jerk response to them. An employee will no doubt be making the request for legitimate and beneficial reasons, often to improve their work/life balance. Once a request is received, it would be advisable to meet with the employee as soon as possible to discuss the request as this will enable an employer get a better idea of the changes the employee is looking for and how those might benefit both the employee and the employer's business. One potential solution, if the employee’s request cannot be accommodated, could be to reach a compromise between the current working pattern and the new working pattern suggested.  

TIME OFF FOR DEPENDANTS 

This is a statutory right to take unpaid time off for dependants. It applies to employees only and applies to all employees, irrespective of their length of service, or whether they work full-time or part-time or are employed on a permanent, temporary or fixed-term basis. This time off is intended to deal with unforeseen matters, emergencies/unexpected crisis and to enable an employee to take action that is necessary to provide help to their dependants. 

An employee is entitled to take reasonable time off where it is necessary:

  • To provide assistance if a dependant falls ill, gives birth, is injured or assaulted.
  • To make care arrangements for the provision of care for a dependant who is ill or injured.
  • In consequence of the death of a dependant.
  • To deal with the unexpected disruption, termination or breakdown of arrangements for the care of a dependant.
  • To deal with an unexpected incident which involves the employee's child during school (or another educational establishment's) hours.

What is a reasonable amount of time off will depend upon the nature of the incident and the employee's individual circumstances. Disruption or inconvenience caused to the employer's business should not be taken into account. In most cases, a day or two will be sufficient to deal with the immediate crisis, but it will depend on the individual circumstances. 

PARENTAL LEAVE

If an employee has completed one year's continuous service with an employer, they are entitled to 18 weeks unpaid parental leave for each child born or adopted. The leave can start once the child is born or placed for adoption, or as soon as the employee has completed a year's service, whichever is later. Employees can take it at any time up to the child's 18th birthday. 

Parental leave is for employees to take time off work to look after a child's welfare, this leave is normally unpaid. The leave should be used only for the purpose of caring for a child.

On the parental leave page of its gov.uk website, the government gives the following examples of reasons for which leave might be taken:

  • Spending more time with children.
  • Looking at new schools.
  • Settling a child into new childcare arrangements.
  • Spending more time with family (for example, visiting grandparents).

A request should be made to an employer giving 21 days notice of the start date of the parental leave, the employer may ask for this to be in writing. As long as the employee qualifies for parental leave and gives the employer the correct notice the employee should be able to take parental leave at any time.

Parental leave should be taken in blocks of a week or multiples of a week, and should not be taken as "odd" days off, unless the employer agrees otherwise or the child is disabled. Employees cannot take off more than four weeks during a year per child. A week is based on an employees working pattern.

Parental Leave should not be confused with Shared Parental Leave which is a new entitlement for eligible parents of children due to be born or adopted on or after 5 April 2015 (see below). 

SHARED PARENTAL LEAVE

Shared Parental Leave (SPL) became available for eligible parents of babies due, or children placed for adoption, on or after 5 April 2015. Eligible mothers are now able to volunteer to end their maternity/adoption leave to create leave which they can share with the child’s father or their partner. 

SPL was introduced to give families more choice and flexibility on how they look after their children in the first year. The amount of leave available is calculated using the mother’s entitlement to maternity/adoption leave, which allows them to take up to 52 weeks’ leave. If they reduce their maternity/adoption leave entitlement then they and/or their partner may opt-in to the SPL system and take any remaining weeks as SPL.


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