The home-work juggle for the school holidays
As the school summer holidays approach, I have been busy planning what I am going to do with my daughter while at work. My mum used to open the door and say come back at lunch time – this is not recommended, my daughter is only 5 after all, but in the absence of having family close by or leaving her in front of the telly watching Netflix for 8 hours a day it has involved searching and booking a variety of holiday clubs.
For those of you in a similar situation here is a little refresher on the legal position if you are in employment and have dependents to care for.
Using your annual leave to care for your children is a great idea however the number of days of school holidays outweighs the statutory holiday leave entitlement. The statutory minimum entitlement for annual leave in the UK is 5.6 weeks for full time employees. Many companies will also have a limit on the number of weeks that you can take at a time (i.e., no more than two consecutive weeks).
Every company is different. You should check your contract and the company’s Holiday Policy which should set out an employee’s entitlement and how employees can take their leave. Employers must be mindful that any such policies are not discriminatory.
Some companies allow their employees to buy holidays. In essence an employee will sacrifice some of their pay each month which will allow them to buy extra holidays. This can be a real saver for some, and it allows people to spread out the cost across a year which can be more manageable.
Parental Leave and time off for dependents
Employees are also entitled to 18 weeks unpaid leave up until a child’s 18th birthday. This is known as Parental Leave and the purpose of the leave is to care for the child. It is flexible in terms of the time when it can be taken, and it is available to birth and adoptive parents and also to anyone who has, or expects to have, parental responsibility for the child. To be entitled, the employee must, at the time the leave is to be taken, have been continuously employed for not less than 1 year. The entitlement does not reset if an employee starts new employment. Any Parental Leave must be agreed in advance.
An employee is also entitled to a reasonable amount of time off for dependents under section 57A of the Employment Rights Act 1996 if their child is ill or if there is an emergency. This time would be unpaid and note the use of the word ‘reasonable’ so it is not a means to getting an extra week off work but rather time to deal with an unforeseen emergency during work hours.
Request for flexible working
A change to your working pattern may be a way to manage the competing requirements of home and work life.
All employees have a legal right to make a request for flexible working if they have been continuously employed for 26 weeks. This request is known as a statutory application and one statutory application can be made in any 12 month period. You must put your request in writing. Flexible working can include flexible start and finish times or working from home and also job-sharing or working compressed or staggered hours. Your employer has an obligation to respond within 3 months.
If like me it’s time to juggle good luck with sorting your summer plans!