05 January 2021
Options available for parents if they need time off work to look after their children
- From a practical perspective, as many parent employees will be facing the same situation in any one business, it’s in everyone’s interest for employers to work with their employees to find a solution. Employers will be able to retain good staff, whilst employees are able to retain their jobs.
- Assuming that employers are prepared to provide for this, it is also worth noting that employers still have a legal duty of care around the physical and mental health of their employees. If they allow flexibility, part of this care should be focusing on risk assessments for employees who are trying to work whilst also looking after their children.
- In October 2020, a Pregnant then Screwed survey of 20,000 mothers found that 46 per cent of women made redundant during the virus said lack of childcare played a role in their redundancy. Employers could be faced with an indirect sex discrimination claims from female staff who are mothers, if they impose a provision which does not allow for flexible working or time off work, as women are disproportionately affected.
Do parents have a right to ask for flexible working?
- Employees have a statutory right to take a reasonable amount of time off to take care of a child or other dependant, but this is only a very short term solution. There is no right to receive pay for this time, although many employers are prepared to cover a limited period e.g. one or two days.
- Another option is for parents to make a flexible working application to their employer. However, this process can take months, as employers need to assess the feasibility of the proposed new flexible arrangements. That said, during the March - July lockdown, there were many employers who were prepared to forgo the usual process, recognising the urgency of the situation, and also realising that there were limited alternative options.
- Holidays and unpaid leave could also be considered, but again this may be a relatively short term solution, depending on how long school closures last for. Parents may be able to take advantage of previously carried over holiday from 2020 if they were unable to take it then.
Can parents appeal if their employer refuses to furlough them?
No, there is no right to be furloughed and the final decision lies with the employer.
How should concerned parents approach their bosses to ask about flexible working during this time?
It’s difficult during these uncertain times, but try to be as creative as possible, presenting possible solutions to the issue, rather than laying a problem at your employer’s door for them to sort. Employees know their family set up better than their boss does, so suggest some options which could see you both through until schools open again.
Can I say 'no' to going to work if I have not yet had the vaccine?