School’s out but its business as usual?!

Whilst children are eagerly awaiting the end of the school year and the fun that the summer holidays hold for them, it is often a difficult time for parents juggling parental responsibilities and work which inevitably is going to have a knock-on effect for their employer.

What can you do where a staff member is unable to work because:

  • Their childminder or summer club has cancelled at short notice?
  • Their child falls ill?
  • They have used up their paid holiday entitlement but would like to take further time off?

Unpaid Holiday

Workers can make a request to take unpaid holiday if they have used all of their paid holiday entitlements. There is no right to authorise unpaid holiday and you can refuse a request of this nature. You should be careful not to create an expectation that workers will automatically be granted unpaid holiday whenever they have used up their paid holiday entitlement. Therefore, it is advisable to exercise discretion based on the individual’s circumstances.

Flexible Working Requests

Employees who have at least 26 weeks of service are eligible to make a flexible working request. Flexible working could involve: shorter working days/weeks, compressed hours, flexitime, working from home etc. Employees are limited to making one application per year.

You can require that the employee makes the request in writing detailing what they are seeking and what the impact the same will have on the business. You have up to 3 months from the request to make a decision. There are prescribed grounds upon which a request can lawfully be refused.

Parental Leave

Employees have a statutory right to take unpaid parental leave from work to look after a child, make arrangements for their welfare or spend more time with them.

Parental leave is limited to 18 weeks of leave for each child up to their 18th birthday, although only 4 weeks can be taken in a year. It must be taken in whole weeks and not individual days.

To be eligible for parental leave, a person must:

  • Be an employee and have been employed by you for at least 1 year;
  • Be named on the child’s birth or adoption certificate and have or expect to have parental responsibility; and
  • Give you 21 days’ notice before the start of their parental leave.

You can ‘postpone/delay’ an employee’s request in certain situations and can propose an alternative date but this must be within 6 months of the employee’s requested start date.

Dependants Care Leave

Employees have the statutory right to take unpaid time off to deal with emergency situations involving their dependants (e.g. children). Such situations can cover an employee’s child being unwell and/or disruption to pre-planned childcare arrangements.

Employees are allowed a “reasonable” amount of time off to deal with the emergency situation only i.e. collecting a poorly child and then arranging alternative childcare. It would not necessarily include extended leave for the duration the child is poorly.

Sick Leave?

Unless the worker is personally sick, sick leave should not be recorded as the reason for the absence from work.

For specialist advice on family friendly rights or on any other employment law matter, please contact our Coventry based Employment Law Solicitors:

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